WaPo journalist suspended for promoting 2016 story about Kobe Bryant’s rape case hours after crash

Screen capture … Kobe Bryant and his family … Credit: NBA

A political reporter for the Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, was suspended by her employer on Sunday after she tweeted a link to a 2016 article about the Kobe Bryant rape case just hours after he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash.

News of the NBA legend’s death shocked America. An outpouring of grief and disbelief swept social media. President Trump was among the multitudes who felt the need to express themselves about the tragedy.

But Sonmez somehow thought it was a good idea to intrude on mourners’ time for digesting news of the crash, even as details were still being confirmed about the number of passengers on the chopper, and ultimately whether his family members were among the 9 people killed.

Shortly after news of the crash emerged, Sonmez posted a link to the years-old Daily Beast article entitled: “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.”

The tweet went viral in its own right and attracted thousands of angry responses, to include death threats she claimed.

Before taking down her asinine post, Sonmez added a couple of replies in an attempt to deflect the deluge of criticism she was receiving.

She wrote: “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 3+ years ago, and not by me. Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality … even if that public figure is beloved and that totality is unsettling. That folks are responding with rage & 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.”

In still another follow-up tweet, Sonmez said, with no apparent sense of irony: “As an addendum: Hard to see what’s accomplished by messages such as these. If your response to a news article is to resort to harassment and intimidation of journalists, you might want to consider that your behavior says more about you than the person you’re targeting.”

It’s not clear whether the Post advised her to delete her tweets or not, or whether it might have been the trending hashtag #FireFeliciaSonmez that shook her to try to stop the bleeding.

According to the Daily Mail, Tracy Grant, managing editor of The Washington Post, said: “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.”

Unfortunately for Sonmez, deleting her soulless tweets amounted to too little, too late. They were screen-captured by multiple users and they continue to draw disappointment and even outrage online.

Bryant was accused of rape in 2003 by a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel. The player denied the charges that were dropped when the accuser refused to testify. He subsequently did admit to cheating on his wife Vanessa and was reported to have settled a civil suit with the alleged victim. Terms of the agreement were never released.

Bryant is survived by his wife and three daughters.


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