‘Washington Post’ Under Scrutiny After Suspending Reporter Over Kobe Bryant Tweets

Kobe Bryant gets ready for a game
Rob Carr / Getty Images

The Washington Post has come under fire by its own guild after it suspended reporter Felicia Sonmez. At the heart of the budding controversy is the reporter’s actions after the death of Kobe Bryant.

Variety reports that while most public figures were paying tribute to the fallen basketball star, Sonmez was tweeting about Bryant’s past rape allegations. The tweets in question have since been deleted but not before they were noticed by The Washington Post brass.

The paper’s managing editor, Tracy Grant, said the reporter had used “poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.” After that, the paper’s own guild issued its own statement on Monday night in which it slammed the decision, mainly because it claimed the Post didn’t explain how it arrived at the conclusion to suspend Sonmez.

“We are concerned by The Post’s unwillingness to be transparent about this issue, and alarmed by the implication that reporters will be penalized for talking about any topic not on their beat.”

The guild added that the move to suspend the reporter illustrated The Post‘s “over-broad” policy when it came to their employees and the use of social media. The statement also pointed out this isn’t the first time the paper has attempted to control the way Sonmez talks about these matters.

Kobe Bryant walks to halfcourt
  Harry How / Getty Images

Variety noted that in Sonmez’s since-deleted tweets, she had originally posted a Daily Beast article from 2016 that detailed the rape allegations against Kobe Bryant. She also detailed reactions from other Twitter users after she posted the piece.

The Washington Post political reporter talked about the threats and harassment she received after she refused to pay tribute to the life of Bryant and instead pointed towards the dark allegation. At the same time, the reporter seemed to understand why people were mourning his death hours after the news broke that he and eight other people had died in a California helicopter crash.

Sonmez said that every public figure deserved to be remembered. She added they should be remembered in their totality, even if the person is widely beloved and certain aspects of the figure’s life are unsettling. Some of the threats and attacks that Sonmez received went so far as to reveal her home address.

The reporter eventually went into hiding, and The Washington Post has suspended her for an indeterminate amount of time. As of now, the paper hasn’t explained its actions in the wake of the decision beyond the managing editor’s rather short statement.