Washington Post Reinstates Reporter, Now Says Her Kobe Bryant Tweet Didn’t Violate Rules

Felicia Sonmez was suspended after she shared a 2016 Daily Beast article about Bryant’s 2003 rape accusation

Last Updated: January 28, 2020 @ 6:40 PM

The Washington Post has walked back its decision to suspend reporter Felicia Sonmez after she tweeted about Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape case and shared a factual article about the incident following his death on Sunday. She has been re-instated.

“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,” managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement Monday. “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.”

Though it is not clear from that statement, Sonmez has been reinstated in her position as a national political reporter, a spokesperson confirmed to TheWrap.

Sonmez’s suspension was widely condemned, including by the Washington Post editorial union. “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 union said in a statement Monday. “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.”

As of this writing, the paper has not made a statement regarding abuse of reporters or Somnez’s safety. The Post did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Grant’s statement Tuesday differs from previous public and private comments by senior Washington Post leadership. For example, Post editor Martin Baron told Sonmez in an email that by sharing the link to a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing the rape accusation against the Lakers star, she was “hurting the institution.”

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