A reporter at the Washington Post has been suspended after causing a stir on Twitter following Kobe Bryant’s death.
Just hours after the world learned of the helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday, which claimed the lives of the NBA star, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and eight others on board, national political reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a link on her personal account to a 2003 rape case involving Bryant.
The headline for the story, written by the Daily Beast in April 2016, read: “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession”.
At the time, Bryant was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment but the case was dropped after his accuser refused to testify in court. A separate civil lawsuit was later settled out of court.
In response to the tweet garnering thousands of shares, likes, and comments, Sonmez said in a series of now-deleted tweets, which included a screenshot of her work email inbox, that she was receiving “death threats.”
“Well, THAT was eye-opening,” she tweeted, according to screenshots grabbed by Twitter users. “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.”
She continued, “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality is unsettling.”
With intense backlash from mourning Bryant fans on Twitter and the trending hashtag #FireFeliciaSonmez, the reporter has since been placed on “administrative leave” from the Washington Post.
In a statement sent to TheWrap, Post managing editor Tracy Grant said, “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.”
Grant’s statement reportedly adds, “The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
After undertaking its internal review, however, the Post issued a tweet to declare that Sonmez’s tweet, while “ill-timed,” did place her “in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”