Reinstated Washington Post Reporter Calls Out Top Editor Marty Baron Over Kobe Bryant Tweet Suspension

“I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will… ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth,” Felicia Sonmez writes

Last Updated: January 28, 2020 @ 9:25 PM

In a defiant public statement Tuesday night, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez called on Martin Baron, the paper’s top editor, to publicly answer for the decision to suspend her for tweeting the link to a factual article about Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape case on the day of his death.

In her statement Sonmez, who was suspended Monday and reinstated Tuesday afternoon, said that “Post reporters and employees, including myself, deserve to hear directly from Marty Baron on the newspaper’s handling of this matter.” She added that Baron’s conduct in particular has “unfortunately sown confusion” as to whether the paper lives up to its own commitment to truthful journalism.

Sonmez concluded her statement by saying she hopes the paper’s leadership “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.”

On Sunday, Sonmez shared a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing the 2003 rape accusation against the Lakers star. Though the case never went to trial, police said evidence was consistent with nonconsensual sex; Bryant ultimately settled with the accuser for an undisclosed sum and publicly apologized to her.

Somnez received death threats and was forced to leave her home and stay in a hotel after tweeting about the incident. While this was going on, Baron told Sonmez in an email that by sharing the article, she was “hurting the institution” of the Washington Post. Her suspension was announced soon after.

Sonmez’s suspension was widely condemned, including by the Washington Post’s own editorial union, which said in a scathing statement Monday: “We urge The Post to immediately provide Felicia with a security detail and take whatever other steps are necessary to ensure her safety, as it has done in the past when other reporters were subject to threats. The company should issue a statement condemning abuse of its reporters, allow Felicia to return to work, rescind whatever sanctions have been imposed and provide her with any resources she may request as she navigates this traumatic experience.”

The Washington Post has not yet issued a statement condemning threats made against its employees. But in announcing her reinstatement, while the paper conceded that Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy,” it still attempted to imply she acted inappropriately, calling her tweets “ill-timed.”

The Post has not yet responded to a request from the Wrap for comment.

Here is Sonmez’s statement in full:

I believe that Washington Post reporters 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 states, “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.

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