For someone who is constantly in the spotlight, you’d think he’d be a little more careful with his words…
Photo Credit: Geoffrey Coelho Photography
Alyssa Labrie, 22, was approached by a man on the street after she was seen taking pictures with a photographer for a work-involved photoshoot. A few minutes into their conversation, he implied that he “worked in the industry” and wanted her contact information. In the moment, Labrie was hoping to network and make a connection. This past May she received her diploma from a state university, so she saw no harm in passing along her phone number.
For almost three months, Marc James, an anchor and reporter for NESN who appears on three of their sports news programs, sent multiple texts to Labrie including unprovoked photos and videos.
After believing his intentions were beyond him wanting a simple network connection, Labrie respectfully decided to stop contacting him. From September 22nd to this weekend, she hadn’t responded to any of his messages.
On October 7th, James sent a text to Labrie letting her know he was in town and wanted to “meet up for a drink, coffee, or a smoothie.” She felt that her point was not getting across. She went on to explain that she had only given him her number to make a professional connection.
James then answered back by stating, “I'll be honest Alyssa... I'm a network TV anchor & a nationally syndicated talk show host. The fact that you claim you're quote "busier than me" is a joke & almost an insult." Then continued to mock her appearance and belittle her job by throwing in snarky comments such as, “You make it seem like I was pursuing you as if you were the Heisman Trophy. You were taking amateur air quote “modeling” pics with some weirdo in downtown Northampton”, recalling their first (and only) exchange in person.
Labrie explained what their encounter was like when James approached her back in July of this year:
“I was working with this local photographer who was helping me get some headshots. We were working down a side street when this guy, Marc, walks up and basically stops the shoot to introduce himself to the two of us. He only shared his name, and proceeded to mention that it was great that I was ‘another person in the industry’ and that he would love to get my contact. At the time, I felt kind of strange giving him my information, but really never thought anything of it. Although, the one concrete thing that I remember him saying was that he dropped some line about how weird it was to come back to Western Massachusetts and ‘have everybody on the street recognize me’... to which I stood there thinking about how I had no idea who this person was.” Almost a month later, on August 6th, James sent Labrie his first text, to which she responded.
From August 17th until the beginning of September, James would send more pictures and videos, mentioning his successes in his career, and when Labrie would not respond or show interest, he asked if they were going to ever “meet up before the year 2021”, to which she responded with, “I honestly couldn’t answer that. I’ve had a ridiculously busy/ unpredictable schedule. But hope you enjoyed your time in Western Mass.”
After those exchanges, James sent text messages on September 22nd, October 1st, and October 6th to which she did not reply until provoking her with, “appreciate your reply… ‘EPIC’ conversation!”
It was on October 7th that James reached out to potentially get drinks with Labrie, letting her know that he would be in town. When she broke the news that she respectfully did not want to meet up, he trashed her appearance, called her a ‘LOSER’ and went on to block her.
After posting her encounter with the NESN reporter on her personal Facebook page, one of Labrie’s friends who knows a friend who works for Babe, an online media outlet, reached out to the editor to recommend contacting Labrie about potentially writing a story for their website, which was later posted and shared on their Facebook page after Labrie agreed to being interviewed for the article. The company chose to not include James’ name or station that he currently works for due to potential legal action. (I reached out to Caroline Phinney, the writer of the piece who quoted, “It’s not permanent, we’re just checking with legal.”)
Labrie's original post:
You can check out Babe’s published article here: https://babe.net/2017/10/08/read-texts-former-espn-host-sent-this-girl-when-she-let-him-down-16338
I then contacted Labrie to get her side, and told her I wanted to expand upon the article by also getting James’ reaction to the piece. After sending James the email, I received a “No Caller ID” phone call about 3 hours later from him.
“First of all, I can tell you that I was with a bunch of people last night watching college football, and one of the people I was with was a girl, and she mentioned ‘hey, you’re getting some text message from this girl, Alyssa’ to which I replied that I had asked her to meet up. After the girl scrolled through our previous texts, she mentioned that Alyssa was being a bitch to me, and wanted to go back and forth with her. (over text) I said to not do anything at all, and to not tell her anything. So then after seeing this article, and not finding the text message exchange on my phone, I reached out to the girl who then told me she had blocked and deleted her… (from my phone) so I had no idea. The phone was not in my hands for that period of time last night and I can guarantee you that none of those texts are on my phone. I was extremely irate when I read this, (article written by Babe) and this is definitely not me… at all, at all.”
I proceeded to ask James about why he repeatedly would send pictures and videos of himself when Labrie clearly showed no interest in receiving them. He responded with:
“Here’s the thing… I basically will mass-text all of my friends wherever I am and whatever I do. I never wanted to date or anything, it was more of a professional thing. I can tell you that I never had any ill-will towards her in any way so I was astonished when I got your email.”
I then asked James if there was a way he could prove to me that it really wasn’t him, and that it was, in fact, his “friend of 18 years” that used her voice as him between the text exchanges.
“As a private person, I don’t really know if I want to drag her into the public eye, so if she did wish to come forward or agree to speak to you, I would want to protect her anonymity. Here’s the thing... You can do what you have to do, (in regards to writing the story) and that’s fine. I’m going to sleep well knowing that I would never text someone like this.” (He later goes on to say this exact line three more times throughout our phone call.)
Before contacting Marc, I ended up doing a simple google search which led me to find out that James’ real last name is actually “Benarzyk”. I was compelled to read more after noticing that it wasn’t until recently that he changed his on-air name to “Marc James”.
During our phone call, I brought up the name change, and asked why he decided to go by Marc James. “Yeah. Here’s the thing. Hold on one second. Let me ask you one question before we go any further. I actually called you because I got this email from you, and you seem pretty legitimate. Before I answer any questions, let me consult the people that I need to talk to. All I was doing was calling you to let you know that these texts were not from me, and I can’t answer any more questions.”
In an online forum, which is not credited as being factual, it is mentioned that “he changed his name to James because he burned so many bridges in Miami and Tampa, that he didn’t want it to find him in his new gig.”
You can read more of the forum here: http://www.carolinapanthersforum.com/threads/enjoy-yourselves-with-marc-james-benarzyk-charlotte-and-wfnz.177666/
But, the conversations about Marc didn’t just stop there. Here’s another link to an online forum claiming how he “would desperately track down show hosts and beg to get him on the show”: http://forums.theraysrepublic.com/index.php?showtopic=4828
And yet again, the conversations accusing him didn’t stop. In 2015, AJC.com posted an article titled “Morning host Marc James is out of 92.9/The Game”. It goes on to say that “the circumstances of his departure were kind of murky” and that “there was a story floating around that James sought autographs from Mets players at a recent Braves game, the type of fan-like behavior sports talk show hosts and sports reporters tend to avoid.” http://radiotvtalk.blog.ajc.com/2015/09/17/morning-host-marc-james-is-out-of-92-9the-game/
I then reached out to some of the other radio hosts that were mentioned in those forums, including Bill Freitas, Rob Vancleave, and Pat Donovan, who all happened to be former co-workers with James.
Bill Freitas, former co-host to James who worked alongside him at WHBO 1040 in Tampa, Florida back in 2008, recalled his 11 months on-air with him... “His arrogance when it comes to the opposite sex almost is a caricature. It’s almost as if he’s acting 24 hours a day like he’s some sort of a bad boy.”
Freitas jokingly, yet in a serious tone quoted, “Creeper is accurate but almost seems a little too weak. We may need to come up with something a little better. It was just a very skin-crawling effect for anyone who would come into contact with him.” and that “he must be a better ‘BS-er’ than I give him credit for because he still seems to have a way of convincing people he's as good as he thinks he is."
He wanted to remind James that, “Karma really takes it’s time. The playing field is going to be level one way or another, and I just hope that I have a good seat to watch it.”
Rob Vancleave and Pat Donovan also were more than willing to share personal memories they’ve had with him.
“He was just an a-hole” Rob Vancleave said, “We would do live broadcasts from a knock-off Hooters-type restaurant, so of course Marc would pick out ones (women) that he was really into, and would start texting them. A few weeks later, the company ended the contract/brand deal with our radio station. Rumor has it that Marc was being so awful to them, sending them harassing text messages, and doing basically the exact same thing that he did to this girl. (Alyssa Labrie) Again, that was a rumor that went around our station, so I don’t want to say that it was a fact, but those actions were very much in his nature.”
Former part time Host/Board-Op for WHBO 1040, Pat Donovan, recounted a stroll he once took with James around the baseball field. “He actually one time asked me to walk around the ballpark with him so that he could talk to girls. He saw this chick and how hot she was and he had told me that he wanted to hit on her. He comes across as this confident man, but when you get to know him even just a little bit, you can see right through that, and you realize how unbelievably self-conscious he is… like, exceedingly. He is one of the few people that I have ever said to his face that ‘I dislike you’, and, ‘you’re a bad person’.”
Freitas, Vancleave and Donovan were all able to confirm that many, if not all, of the accusations made in the online forums were in fact, true.
“There's a certain behavior I'll never let slide. I read the story. I'd bet my life on it that he sent those texts. Please put that on the record!” said Donovan.
“That's him. That's exactly how he communicates. His use of all caps is unmistakable.” said Freitas, “I joked after he finally burned his last bridge in Tampa that the only way he'd get back in broadcasting is leave the state and change his name. And that's exactly what he did.”
I also made sure to send a follow-up email to Mr. James, reiterating that if his friend would like to give me a call, I would give her until late afternoon today, and if not, I would go ahead and publish the piece including that she did not comment.
She never reached out.
“I wish that he would know that women do not owe men their time or attention, and the fact that he was relentless... he needs to understand that a lot of women are fearful to directly say no to a man that could very well turn around and harass them, and that’s exactly what happened with me. I was simply not interested… Which is something that I have the right to say. It baffles me that as soon as a woman says no, she has to be the enemy. I just hope that moving forward he can act with a little more kindness, and be more careful with his future interactions involving women... That’s all.” says Labrie.