Washington Post fires reporter in center of online battle

Jun 9, 2022, 11:40 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 3:19 pm
FILE - People walk by the One Franklin Square Building, home of The Washington Post newspaper, in d...

FILE - People walk by the One Franklin Square Building, home of The Washington Post newspaper, in downtown Washington on Feb. 21, 2019. The Washington Post has fired reporter Felicia Sonmez, who has triggered a vigorous online debate this past week over social media policy and public treatment of colleagues. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Post has fired Felicia Sonmez, who triggered a vigorous online debate this week over social media policy and public treatment of colleagues after she criticized a fellow reporter for retweeting an offensive joke.

The Post said Friday it would not comment on personnel issues. But a copy of a termination letter sent Thursday, accusing her of “insubordination, maligning your coworkers online and violating the Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity” was published on the Mediaite website and quoted in other news accounts.

The outspoken political writer, whose second stint at the Post began in 2018, declined comment Friday.

The incident began when Sonmez tweeted a screen shot of an offensive joke that a colleague, Dave Weigel, had sent out on Twitter, adding the comment: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed.” The Post suspended Weigel for a month for his retweet, according to published reports.

That prompted another reporter, Jose Del Real, to criticize Sonmez online. While saying Weigel had been wrong, Del Real called for compassion. “Rallying the Internet to attack him for a mistake he made doesn’t actually solve anything,” he wrote.

That led to a contentious back-and-forth, with Sonmez accusing Del Real of attacking her.

As an online debate widened and drew in more people, Post executive editor Sally Buzbee sent out two memos calling on staff members to show respect for each other. The second, on Tuesday, was more stern: Buzbee wrote that “we do not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues either face to face or online.”

As it consumed more attention, a handful of Post employees tweeted their support of the newspaper as a good place to work. Sonmez noted that those people were among the newspaper’s best-paid stars, and suggested there has been a longstanding double standard in how social media policy is applied to them.

She also retweeted a screen shot that said Del Real had blocked her on Twitter, adding the comment, “So I hear the Washington Post is a collegial workplace.”

While it was consuming attention, another Post reporter, Lisa Rein, tweeted to Sonmez: “please stop.”

Sonmez, who worked at the Post in the early 2010s, left and rejoined, sued the Post and its top editors last year, charging discrimination in barring her from covering stories related to sexual assault after she had previously gone public as an assault victim herself.

In the termination letter, signed by Human Resources Officer Wayne Connell, the Post said that in questioning the motives of colleagues, Sonmez was undermining the Post’s reputation for journalistic integrity and fairness.

“The same is true of your baseless derision directed to our policies and practices, and our commitment to a safe and supportive work environment,” he wrote.

Sonmez’s union, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said it is committed to ensuring that workers are only disciplined with just cause, but that it did not comment on individual personnel issues.

One Post columnist, Karen Attiah, tweeted on Friday that Sonmez had “always been incredibly kind and supportive” of her, and had reached out when Attiah had been the target of online abuse.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks on the White House campus, June 17, 2022, in Washington. The Bide...
Associated Press

Biden aims at China in new illegal fishing policy framework

The Biden administration is stepping up efforts to combat illegal fishing by China, ordering federal agencies to better coordinate among themselves as well as with foreign partners in a bid to promote sustainable exploitation of the world's oceans.
20 hours ago
FILE - Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles speaks during a press c...
Associated Press

Australia talks down prospect of having nuclear subs by 2030

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s new defense minister on Wednesday talked down the prospect of Australia acquiring U.S. nuclear-powered submarines by the end of the decade, describing such a timetable as “optimistic in the extreme.” Defense Minister Richard Marles, whose party came to power at elections last month, said his priority was closing a naval […]
20 hours ago
A technician monitors the self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. on June 14, 2022, in...
Associated Press

China’s Baidu races Waymo, GM to develop self-driving cars

BEIJING (AP) — With no one at the wheel, a self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. is rolling down a Beijing street when its sensors spot the corner of a delivery cart jutting into its lane. The taxi stops a half-car-length away. “So sorry,” a recorded voice tells passengers. The steering wheel turns […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Puerto Rico police uncover island’s biggest pot greenhouse

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico police said they raided the island’s largest hydroponic marijuana greenhouse on Tuesday, with nearly 2,000 plants being grown in a former addiction treatment center. Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said officers discovered the greenhouse in the northern town of Carolina, just east of the capital of San […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Ratings show Fox News viewers tuning out Jan. 6 hearings

NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel is airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings when they occur in daytime hours and a striking number of the network’s viewers have made clear they’d rather be doing something else. During two daytime hearings last week, Fox averaged 727,000 viewers, the Nielsen company said. That compares to the […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

California budget won’t cover out-of-state abortion travel

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — While Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to make California a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, his administration won’t spend public money to help people from other states travel to California for the procedure. Newsom’s decision, included in a budget agreement reached over the weekend, surprised abortion advocates who have been working […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Washington Post fires reporter in center of online battle