Journalist who shared old Kobe Bryant rape story hours after his death is suspended
By Jacob Geanous
January 27, 2020
|Felicia Sonmez, a reporter at The Washington Post, was suspended after tweets about Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations following his death.|
A journalist was suspended after sharing a link to an old story about rape allegations made against Kobe Bryant hours after he died.
Felicia Sonmez, a national political reporter for The Washington Post, tweeted the link on Sunday after news broke that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among nine passengers killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles.
Sonmez said she received thousands of comments of abuse and death threats after she shared the April 2016 story from The Daily Beast, titled: ‘Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s story, and the Half-Confession.’
In a follow-up, Sonmez wrote: ‘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 unsettling.’
She continued: ‘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.’
In another tweet, Sonmez said: ‘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.’
She later deleted the tweets after they were met with backlash as the hashtag #FireFeliciaSonmez began trending on Twitter.
Tracy Grant, the managing editor of The Washington Post, told MailOnline: ‘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.’
The story Sonmez shared included details regarding Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations.
Bryant, who was 27, was arrested for sexual assault and false imprisonment after a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel accused him of rape.
The accuser later agreed to drop the charges on the condition that Bryant issued a formal apology in court, which his lawyer did.
However, It was not the story Sonmez shared that earned her a suspension, but a screenshot she included with it that showed her email inbox, it is claimed. Sonmez shared a grab of the angry messages she’d received, without blurring out the email addresses of those who had gotten in touch.
‘Her managers don’t care about the Daily Beast tweet. But there’s a concern that the screen shot (of her email inbox) might create some legal issues and could violate Twitter’s terms (of service),’ a source at the Washington Post told journalist Matthew Keys.
Although her managers reportedly did not suspend her for the link, many Twitter users were furious with Sonmez.
One wrote: ‘You really thought this was the time to post this? You’re terrible.’
Another said: ‘On this morning, you decided to be a callous, attention mongering, soulless, cancel culture “journalist” by rehashing the past transgressions of a reformed man, while the bodies of this same man, his daughter, and other victims were still at the crash site.’
But amid the outrage, some came to Sonmez’s support.
‘So glad to see you stood up for the girl that was forgotten regards the basketball player. Thank you. I’m glad you gave her a voice. My sympathies for all mothers today. Whether their child be deceased or sexually abused,’ wrote one user.