The Washington Post reporter suspended for tweets following the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant spoke out for the first time after being reinstated.
Political reporter Felicia Sonmez shared a scathing statement on Twitter Tuesday demanding the newspaper’s editor share publicly an explanation of why she was punished over the tweets relating to rape allegations against Bryant.
“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,” Sonmez said in the statement.
“Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which states, ‘The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world,'” she added.
“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,” Sonmez continued. “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.”
I believe that Washington Post readers and employees, including myself, deserve to hear directly from @PostBaron on the newspaper’s handling of this matter. My statement on The Post’s decision tonight: pic.twitter.com/t5ULzUQhYT
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) January 29, 2020
Sonmez was slammed after she tweeted a link to a report about the sexual assault allegation against Bryant just as news was breaking about his death in a helicopter crash Sunday. The 2003 criminal charges against Bryant were dropped in 2004 after his accuser chose not to testify.
The reporter was placed on administrative leave pending a review after her since-deleted tweet, and subsequent responses, ignited a backlash on social media.
WaPo journalist suspended for promoting 2016 story about Kobe Bryant’s rape case hours after crash https://t.co/GVQnkZ4vIx
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 27, 2020
“National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy. The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues,“ Washington Post Managing Editor Tracy Grant told Fox News at the time.
The Post faced its own backlash for its decision, with its media critic Eric Wemple calling out the “misguided” suspension of Sonmez.
On Tuesday, Grant issued a statement saying Sonmez was not actually “in clear and direct violation” with her tweets.
“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,” Grant said.
“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. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter,” the statement read.
Sonmez had shared that she received abuse and death threats.
“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,” she tweeted Sunday. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”
The Washington Post Newspaper Guild noted the “welcome development” of the reporter’s reinstatement but expressed disappointment that there was no apology to Sonmez and that there was not “swift action” taken to protect her.
Our statement regarding the reinstatement of our colleague Felicia Sonmez: pic.twitter.com/x3n2OiXjHv
— Washington Post Guild (@PostGuild) January 29, 2020
“We remain concerned that The Post did not take swift action to provide her with protection and support. We urge the company to prioritize employee safety above all else,” the Guild wrote.
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