UPDATE: Sonmez tweeted out a statement Tuesday evening calling for Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron to address the issue directly. Her suspension and his email warning to her, she said, “have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment” to its journalistic principles.
Following an uproar over the suspension of Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez regarding her Twitter posts in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, the outlet has now ruled that she did not violate its social media policy.
Not long after news circulated of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Sonmez posted on Twitter a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story along with its headline, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.” She later tweeted that she had received “abuse and death threats” for posting a link to the straight-news story.
The Post then placed her on administrative leave so it could review “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.“
The move drew sharp criticism from reporters, including The Post media critic Erik Wemple, who called it “misguided,” and the Washington Post Guild, which released a letter in solidarity of Sonmez, signed by more than 300 Post staffers.
On Tuesday afternoon, Washington Post Live communications general manager Kristine Coratti Kelly tweeted out the following statement from the outlet, attributing it to Washington Post managing editor Tracy Grant:
“After conducting an internal review, we have determined that, while we consider Felicia’s tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy. Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.’ We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”
The statement did not explicitly address whether Sonmez’s suspension had been immediately lifted. Coratti Kelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.