The Washington Post reporter who was reinstated after being suspended for her tweets that were made in the wake of NBA legend Kobe Bryant's sudden passing is now calling on the paper's editor to publicly explain why she was punished to begin with.
Washington Post Managing Editor Tracy Grant issued a statement on Tuesday addressing the controversy surrounding political reporter Felicia Sonmez, whom critics slammed for sharing a report about the sexual assault allegation against Bryant as the news of his tragic death was still breaking on Sunday.
"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," Grant said. "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."
Now, Sonmez is defiantly calling on Executive Editor Marty Baron to explain what went on behind the paper's handling of the controversy.
"I believe that Washington Post readers and employees, including myself, deserve to hear directly from Marty Baron on the newspaper’s handling of this matter," Sonmez said in a statement Tuesday. "Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which states, 'The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.'"
"My suspension, and Mr. Baron’s Jan. 26 email warning me that my tweets about a matter of public record were 'hurting this institution,' have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment to this goal," she continued.
"I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth," Sonmez added.
The Washington Post declined to comment.
Earlier in the evening, The Washington Post Newspaper Guild issued a response to Sonmez's reinstatement, welcoming the decision but expressing disappointment that the paper's statement did not offer an apology to the reporter, and condemned the employer for not prioritizing its staff.
"We remain concerned that The Post did not take swift action to provide her with protection and support. We urge the company to prioritize employee safety above all else," the Guild wrote.
Sonmez was slammed on social media for sharing a 2016 story about 2003 rape allegations from The Daily Beast headlined, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession," as details of the helicopter crash were still trickling out.
Sonmez doubled down with numerous follow-up tweets after her initial message was hit with an onslaught of backlash, writing that the response was “eye-opening” and claiming she received abuse and death threats.
“Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality... even if that public figured is beloved and that totality unsettling,” Sonmez wrote. “That folks are responding with rage & threats toward me… speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”
Sonmez eventually deleted the tweets, but her employer wasn’t pleased and placed her on administrative leave pending a review.
“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,“ Grant told Fox News at the time.
The Post's punishment of its reporter then faced its own backlash from inside the paper, including from the Guild, as well as from its media critic Eric Wemple, who knocked his employer's "misguided" suspension of Sonmez for sharing a "very good story" from The Daily Beast about the misconduct claims against Bryant.
Wemple revealed from his own interview with Sonmez that The Post condemned her for the tweets because "they didn't 'pertain'" to her "coverage area" and that "your behavior on social media is making it harder for others to do their work as Washington Post journalists.”
"A couple of thoughts about those objections: One, if journalists at The Post are prone to suspension for tweeting stories off their beats, the entire newsroom should be on administrative leave," Wemple wrote. "Two, the contention that sharing a link to a news article complicates the work of others requires supporting evidence."
Fox News' Brian Flood contributed to this report.