Washington Post reportedly suspends journalist who tweeted about Kobe Bryant's sexual assault history
The Washington Post has allegedly suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez, who posted a link to an article on rape allegations made against Kobe Bryant, the New York Times has reported.
NBA All-Star Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, was accused of sexual assault back in 2003 by a hotel employee in Colorado. The charges were dropped in 2005, and Bryant settled with his accuser out of court.
In the wake of tributes and commemorations to the life of the basketball player, Sonmez posted a link to a 2016 Daily Beast Article, entitled: 'Kobe Bryant's Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, The Accuser's Story, and the Half-Confession.'
News of the tragic crash was broken late on Sunday evening:
Sonmez's tweet immediately incurred a furious backlash from other Twitter users, many of whom were outraged that she had brought up the case in wake of his passing.
Responding to her critics, Sonmez tweeted: "Well, THAT was eye-opening. 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. [sic]"
Sonmez received an email from executive editor of The Washington Post Martin Baron, at 5.38 PM on Monday, January 27, in which she was told she would be placed on administrative leave.
Per The New York Times, the publications managing editor Tracy Grant stated: "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. [sic]"
However, many other journalists have rushed to the defense of Sonmez. NewsGuild wrote an open letter to The Post's editorial staff, which was signed by more than 200 staff members and reporters.
The letter reads: "Felicia received an onslaught of violent messages, including threats that contained her home address, in the wake of a tweet Sunday regarding Kobe Bryant. Instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave while newsroom leaders review whether she violated the social media policy."
Per The New York Times, Sonmez herself stated in a later interview: "I expected to get some blowback. I can understand that it would be difficult for people to read that, but it’s also difficult, I imagine, for all of the survivors in the country to see these allegations essentially be erased, which is how I felt in those couple of hours in the newsroom."