News and Commentary

Washington Post Issues New Statement About Reporter Suspended Over Kobe Bryant Tweet
The building of the Washington Post newspaper headquarter is seen on K Street in Washington DC on May 16, 2019. - The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

The Washington Post released a new statement about left-leaning reporter Felicia Sonmez on Tuesday night after the newspaper suspended her at the start of the week for an inflammatory tweet she published in the wake of former NBA star Kobe Bryant’s death, saying that the newspaper should not have suspended her.

Sonmez was suspended on Sunday after she tweeted a news story immediately after news broke of Bryant’s death that highlighted the past rape allegations that he faced from years ago.

“After conducting an internal review, we have determined that, while we consider Felicia’s tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy,” Washington Post Managing Editor Tracy Grant said in a statement. “Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.”

“We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths,” Grant continued. “We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”

Sonmez portrayed herself the victim of the situation, issuing the following statement:

I believe that Washington Post readers and employees, including myself, deserve to hear directly from Marty Baron on the newspaper’s handling of this matter.

Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which state, ‘The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.’ My suspension, and Mr. Baron’s Jan. 26 email warning me that my tweets about a matter of public record were ‘hurting this institution,’ have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment to this goal.

I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth.

“More than 300 of her colleagues rallied to her defense on Monday, adding their names to a letter addressed to The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, and its managing editor, Tracy Grant,” The New York Times reported. “In the petition, they argued that Ms. Sonmez had not violated the newspaper’s social media guidelines, a set of rules asking Post journalists not to share opinions online.”

Sonmez’s inflammatory tweets instantly went viral and gained well over 20,000 comments before she deleted all of her tweets on the matter.

In a follow up tweet, Sonmez wrote:  “Well, THAT was eye-opening. To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story — which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me. Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality.”

Sonmez’s explanation for why she tweeted the story, because “any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” does not stand up well under scrutiny because she did not tweet about anything else from Bryant’s life other than the rape allegation, which he was never convicted of.

This report has been updated to include additional information.