Reporter Put on Leave After Sharing Story on Rape Allegation

Tweet just after Kobe Bryant's death sparks 'abuse and death threats'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2020 6:30 PM CST
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, shown last March, died Sunday in a helicopter crash.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Newser) – The Washington Post has suspended a reporter who tweeted a 2016 article about a sexual assault allegation against basketball star Kobe Bryant, soon after his death Sunday. An editor said the paper is looking into whether the reporter violated the Post's social media policy, NBC reports. "The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues," Tracy Grant said. After the outcry erupted, Felicai Sonmez wrote, "Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure beloved and that totality upsetting." The Daily Beast article she tweeted about the 2003 allegation carried the headline, "Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession." Sonmez deleted the tweet but posted a screenshot of what she said were 10,000 pieces of "abuse and death threats" she'd received, per the New York Post. That tweet also has been deleted.

There were responses critical of the Post, too. "While you can debate the timing of the tweets, it's a relevant detail to the life of Kobe Bryant," one said. "A newspaper silencing a journalist sets a terrible example." Erik Wemple, a Post media critic, disagreed with the paper's action. "If journalists at the Post are prone to suspension for tweeting stories off their beats, the entire newsroom should be on administrative leave," he wrote. Wemple pointed out that Sonmez checked into a hotel as a precaution Sunday night after someone posted her home address online. The Washington Post Guild called on the Post to reinstate Sonmez and take action to ensure her safety. (The reaction to Bryant's death includes putting his legacy as a star and person into context.)

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