A Washington Post reporter has reportedly been placed on administrative leave following her tweets in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday morning.
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were reportedly among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning. The helicopter was reportedly heading to a basketball tournament in Southern California.
Washington Post national politics reporter Felicia Sonmez responded to Bryant’s tragic death by tweeting out a story about his 2003 rape case. The 2016 Daily Beast story detailed the allegations against Bryant, who was charged with sexual assault. The case never made it to trial and was settled out of court.
“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 3-plus years ago, and not by me,” Sonmez tweeted and later deleted. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.
“That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”
The Washington Post has reportedly decided to place Sonmez on leave as they review her tweets.
“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.
Washington Post reporter @feliciasonmez deleted her crass tweets about Kobe Bryant. But screen grabs are forever – and I took some before she deleted the tweets.
Bye, Felicia. pic.twitter.com/IvNZHkiBam
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) January 26, 2020
Keys later reported that she was not suspended directly for her Kobe tweets, but for screengrabs of her emails.
UPDATE: A person who works at the Washington Post says @feliciasonmez was NOT suspended for linking to the Daily Beast story on Twitter. Her suspension was related to a follow up tweet that contained a screen shot of her work email inbox, which revealed full names of emailers.
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) January 27, 2020
Bryant’s 2003 case is undoubtedly a part of his legacy and many will struggle with the correct way to handle it in the wake of his tragic death.