The Washington Post has reversed its decision to suspend one of its reporters after she tweeted a story about Kobe Bryant‘s rape case.
In the wake of Bryant’s death, The Post political reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story, detailing the 2003 rape allegation against Bryant. Its headline reads, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.” Sonmez later tweeted that she received abuse and death threats for posting the link to the story.
“Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling,” she wrote in since-deleted tweets.
“That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”
In the immediate aftermath of her tweets, The Washington Post said it had placed Sonmez on “administrative leave” while the paper reviewed whether or not her tweets “violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, The Post managing editor Tracy Grant said the tweets displayed “poor judgement that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
But the decision attracted intense criticism from The Post newsroom. Some 300 Post employees, per the New York Times, signed an open letter to Grant and executive editor Martin Baron, calling for the reversal of the suspension. The open letter was fronted by the paper’s employee union, The Washington Post Guild.
“The loss of such a beloved figure, and of so many other lives, is a tragedy,” the Guild wrote. “But we believe it is our responsibility as a news organisation to tell the public the whole truth as we know it — about figures and institutions both popular and unpopular, moments timely and untimely.”
This morning, The Post Live communications general manager Kristine Coratti Kelly tweeted out a statement from the publication, on behalf of Grant.
“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,” the statement reads.
New statement regarding Post reporter Felicia Sonmez pic.twitter.com/HBt2s5VW68
— Kristine Coratti Kelly (@kriscoratti) January 28, 2020
In response, The Guild released its own statement, sharing its disappointment that The Post didn’t actually apologise to Sonmez.
The statement also included words from Sonmez, who said she and her colleagues deserve to hear from Baron on the paper’s handling of the situation. Sonmez re-shared the statement on her personal account.
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