While everyone was mourning the passing of Kobe Bryant, one reporter felt the need to revisit the 2003 rape case against Bryant and initially earned herself a suspension from The Washington Post. Now the news publication is claiming she did not break the rules.
Felicia Sonmez shared a link to a 2016 Daily Beast article that rehashed 2003 rape allegations against Kobe on Sunday just hours after Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, 13 and seven other passengers perished in a helicopter crash. Sonmez’s headass tweet, which lacked any context, was spotted among the many Tweets paying their respects to Kobe and the victims of the helicopter crash.
At that particular moment, not only did Sonmez receive tons of backlash for her decision to share the article, but she was also put on paid leave. Before that happened she received an email from The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron which she shared with the New York Times stating:
“Felicia, A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”
For good measure, a screenshot of Sonmeez’s tweet sharing the story was in the body of the email as well.
Following the initial Tweet that got her in trouble, Sonmez followed it up with a series of tweets detailing all of the negative responses she received. She also shared a screenshot of an email, sharing the sender’s full government that showered her with expletives and called her a lewd name.
“Well, THAT was eye-opening,” she wrote. “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 (more than three) years ago, and not by me.”
Sonmez was then instructed to delete the problematic tweets by The Post’s managing editor Tracy Grant, but if you are a regular on social media you know nothing gets deleted in time because screenshots were being shared up and down timelines
In a statement from Grant on behalf of The Post, her suspension was confirmed:
“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.”
But it didn’t last too long with The Post allowing her to go back to work following a review claiming in a statement that Ms. Somnez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”
The statement further explained that while her tweets “ill-timed,” The Post does “consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”
This all happened after more than 300 of her colleagues signed their a name to a letter that was sent to The Posts’ executive editor Martin Baron and managing editor Tracy Grant. The petition claimed that Sonmez did not violate the newspaper’s social media guidelines that ask journalists not to share their personal opinions online.
Oh well, she should have thought about that before she pressed send. While yes, Kobe’s life was complicated due to the rape allegations, there is definitely a time and place for everything. That particular moment wasn’t it.
We will leave you with these words from Lindsey Granger, who so accurately breaks down how journalists like Somnez have a responsibility to report things in context.
Let us know where you stand in the comments.
Photo: ERIC BARADAT / Getty