Did Jonah Hill's Leaked Texts Wreck His Reputation? PR Experts Weigh In

Jonah Hill has been thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, after his ex-girlfriend shared screenshots of private text messages with the world—but PR experts doubt the scandal spells the end for the actor.

Starting on July 7, Sarah Brady, a surf instructor and model, shared multiple screenshots of the texts on Instagram that she presented as having come from Hill. She also alleged that Hill was "emotionally abusive" during their relationship. The couple went public with the relationship in August 2021 and split in 2022.

"This is a warning to all girls. If your partner is talking to you like this, make an exit plan. Call me if you need an ear," Brady captioned one post. She also shared text messages that allegedly showed Hill requesting that she remove surfing photos from her Instagram account that showed her "a** in a thong." Brady appeared to initially comply with Hill's purported requests.

Hill has yet to publicly address the allegations. Newsweek has contacted a Hill representative via email for comment.

Jonah Hill's reputation discussed
Jonah Hill is pictured on September 20, 2018 in New York City. The actor's ex-girlfriend has publicly shared a series of allegations regarding their relationship. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Netflix

The stream of text messages and accompanying allegations shared by Brady saw countless people weigh in with their opinions on social media. Many criticized the You People star for what they saw as controlling behavior, while others defended him for what the actor himself allegedly described as setting out his "boundaries."

While the court of public opinion remains divided over the allegations, has the scandal truly wrecked his reputation as a Hollywood actor going forward?

"No Obligation"

Evan Nierman, CEO of Red Banyan Crisis PR and author of The Cancel Culture Curse, believes Hill has so far done the right thing in maintaining his public silence as the lingering echoes of the scandal play out on social media.

Nierman told Newsweek that the actor "has no obligation to comment about the text messages, especially since so much of what he said to his ex-girlfriend is now in the public domain thanks to her sharing their private conversations."

Despite the avalanche of headlines and trending discussions surrounding Brady's claims, Nierman doesn't foresee any lasting damage for Hill, from a PR standpoint.

"While many journalists are seizing upon a narrative that paints Hill in a very negative light, I do not expect this to impact his reputation long-term," he said. "In my view, a reading of the messages does not provide confirmation of the most serious allegations against him."

Ryan McCormick, managing partner and communication crisis expert at Goldman McCormick public relations in New York City, has echoed this sentiment.

"Based on the publicly available text messages between Jonah Hill and his ex-girlfriend Sarah Brady, I don't think [this] is a PR crisis at all," McCormick told Newsweek. Addressing Hill's current silence, McCormick added that the screen star "doesn't need to do [a] penance walk in the eyes of the public."

Jonah Hill and his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Brady
Jonah Hill and then-girlfriend Sarah Brady are pictured on December 05, 2021 in New York City. The pair went their separate ways in 2022. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Netflix

Brady has continued to speak out about her relationship with Hill on social media, saying they communicated as friends for months after their split.

Their final message exchange took place on August 31, 2022, she said, after Hill told her he had started a new romantic relationship. Brady's earliest timestamped posts were dated October 12, 2021.

"It may seem as if I am sharing a lot, but you all have no idea how much more there is which I am choosing not to share out of consideration for him and his family," Brady wrote on Instagram earlier this month.

In one post dated December 2, 2021, Hill is alleged to have written to Brady: "If you need: surfing with men, boundaryless inappropriate friendships with men, to model, to post pictures of yourself in a bathing suit, to post sexual pictures, friendships with women who are in unstable places and from your wild recent past beyond getting a lunch or coffee or something respectful, I am not the right partner for you."

"If these things bring you to a place of happiness I support it and there will be no hard feelings," the message continued. "These are my boundaries for romantic partnership. My boundaries with you based on the ways these actions have hurt our trust."

Timing of Message Release

Brady, who is based in Hawaii, said she had timed the release of her allegations with consideration for Hill's partner, Olivia Millar, who recently gave birth to their baby.

"I waited until she had her baby," Brady wrote on Instagram. "So I knew they were like physically not impacted by me sharing this s***, and she could be informed and make an informed decision of how she wants to care for herself and her baby."

However, Nierman believes that the timing may not have helped Brady, telling Newsweek that it "is more likely to have a negative impact on Sarah Brady's long-term reputation since she has attacked him in the press in a very ugly fashion in the wake of Hill and his partner having a baby."

For her part, Brady recently wrote in Instagram Story posts that her "intention was not to cancel" Hill with the public sharing of her allegations.

While Brady has been publicly criticized by some for sharing the text messages, Hill has been accused by therapists of having "weaponized therapy speak" to control his former partner.

"Immediately I was totally 'icked' out reading Hill's messages," clinical sexologist and relationship therapist Naomi Hutchings, who is based in Australia, told Newsweek last week. "He has totally got that all wrong because that's not a boundary at all."

"A boundary is supposed to be about something that you create for yourself and what he was actually doing was putting a whole bunch of things in place using therapy terms," Hutchings added. "I think he was trying to sound more enlightened than he is, but basically I think that was control."

But U.K.-based psychotherapist Toby Ingham countered that "when things get complicated in a relationship, when there are more arguments... more uncomfortable things start to be said, shared and aired."

"I guess him having a baby with his new partner, it's not a big leap to think that's actually been quite a provocative thing for Sarah," Ingham added.

Newsweek has contacted Brady via Instagram for comment.

"Reputational Setback"

Therapy has been a major factor in both Hill and Brady's lives. In what was described as the former couple's final days of communication last summer, Hill purportedly offered to pay for Brady's therapy "through the end of the year." McCormick told Newsweek that he saw this as evidence of Hill having "showed compassion" in light of his and Brady's relationship breakdown.

Hill, who has been open in the past about living with anxiety, documented his own mental health journey in the documentary Stutz, which debuted in November. Nierman told Newsweek that through Stutz, Hill "fully embraced public vulnerability and his own struggles and hopefully assembled the tools to steel himself against this emotional and reputational setback" from the text message scandal.

Ultimately, said McCormick, while the "tone of Hill's communications with his ex appear to be of concern," he sees the text message release as a blip for the star.

"The likelihood of being forgotten is not a year but, a week—unless more text messages are revealed which present Hill in a negative light," he said. "From a PR perspective, it's a sad, non-eventful development."

For Nierman, the public nature of the incident is "humiliating and frustrating" in Hill's case, and will likely cause him and others to think twice in the future.

"This is an alarming incident that reminds public figures to be very careful about what they put into writing, since it could easily be splashed across the internet where it will live forever," he said.

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