Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez was suspended Sunday after tweeting about the 2003 rape case against Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people killed hours earlier in helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
After posting a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing the rape accusations against the Lakers star, Sonmez then posted a screenshot of her work email inbox to illustrate the threats she received as a result, according to one screenshot and an independent reporter.
“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,” Washington Post managing editor Tracy Grant in a statement to TheWrap. “The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues,” she added.
Sonmez’s suspension was praised on Sunday night for being, some believed, a direct result of her posting a link to the April 2016 Daily Beast article that outlined the 2003 accusation of rape against the basketball legend. Bryant was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment at the time, but the case never made it to trial and it was later settled in a civil lawsuit.
Sonmez tweeted a link to the article with no caption, following it up to say she was receiving threats and believed “any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” according to screenshots of the now-deleted tweets.
Those screenshots came from independent journalist Matthew Keys, who wrote that Sonmez “deleted her crass tweets” about the legend, but “screen grabs are forever.”
Keys followed up his statement about what he labeled her “crass tweets” to say she had been suspended, adding in the early hours of Monday morning that a Washington Post employee told him the suspension was not due to the posting of the rape case article. In fact, he said, it was because of the screenshot Sonmez posted of her work email inbox, which showed the names of critics.
A spokesperson for the paper did not elaborate on the content of the tweets that Grant had described as displaying “poor judgment.”