WaPo Reporter Responsible For Kobe Bryant Tweets Speak Out, Condemns Paper For Suspension

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez called on the paper’s top editor to publicly address how her suspension was handled Tuesday after she tweeted about Kobe Bryant’s rape case shortly after his death.

Sonmez, a national politics reporter for WaPo, was suspended after a series of tweets shortly after the NBA star’s death. One of the tweets was a story from the Daily Beast about Bryant’s rape case. Sonmez faced massive backlash after her tweet and subsequently posted images of her inbox to show the threats she was receiving.

WaPo cleared Sonmez of any wrongdoing Tuesday evening and Sonmez issued a statement demanding executive editor Marty Baron address the situation shortly afterwards.

“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 according to the statement. “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 journalists will be punished for speaking the truth.”

Sonmez also invoked WaPo’s mission statement, which reads that “The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.” This came after WaPo’s managing editor Tracy Grant noted an internal review found Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”

Grant added that the outlet regretted “having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.” (RELATED: BBC Apologizes After Airing LeBron James Footage During Kobe Bryant Tribute)

WaPo’s union also condemned how the situation was handled.

“We write to share our alarm and dismay that our newsroom leaders have chosen to place Felicia Sonmez on leave over a social media post, and to urge The Post to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of our colleague,” The Washington Post Newspaper Guild wrote in a statement.

“This case also reflects fundamental flaws in The Post’s arbitrary and over-broad social media policy. We have repeatedly seen colleagues — including members of management — share contentious opinions on social media platforms without sanction. But here a valued colleague is being censured for making a statement of fact.”

It is not clear if Sonmez has been reinstated. Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday in California along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others.