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Reporter Says Paper Took Her Off Sexual Assault Stories

Felicia Sonmez says editors told her coverage would be a conflict of interest
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 22, 2021 6:10 PM CDT
Reporter Says Paper Took Her Off Sexual Assault Stories
The Washington Post office in downtown Washington. The paper has been sued by one of its reporters.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

(Newser) – Washington Post politics reporter Felicia Sonmez has sued the paper and several of its current and former editors, the AP reports, saying she was discriminated against as a victim of sexual assault. In a suit filed Wednesday in DC Superior Court, Sonmez said she was not allowed to report on sexual misconduct after she issued a statement in September 2018 on the resignation of a Los Angeles Times journalist who she said had assaulted her in China. He has said what happened was consensual. In her statement, Sonmez said she was grateful the Times took her allegations seriously but criticized its handling of the investigation. She said the response of institutions is essential to combatting sexual misconduct. The Post then barred her from writing about Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court justice, Sonmez said.

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Cameron Barr, the Post's managing editor, told her she had "taken a side on the issue" of sexual assault by talking about her own experience publicly, Sonmez said, while Steven Ginsburg, the national editor, told her that "it would present 'the appearance of a conflict of interest'" for her to report on sexual misconduct. Sonmez said that the ban was later extended so that she could not cover sexual misconduct at all, and that she was frequently taken off stories. The paper also put her on leave in January 2020 after she tweeted a link to a story about a 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant hours after he died. She was cleared to return to work after intense criticism of the suspension from Post colleagues. The ban was lifted in March 2021, the day after a Politico story about the Post's coverage ban and Sonmez's criticism that editors had not supported her when she was threatened online. She is asking for damages and to force the paper to take steps to remedy its conduct and prevent similar situations. A Post spokesperson declined to comment on the suit.

(Read more Washington Post stories.)

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