WaPo Guild Urges Paper To Lift Suspension Of Journo Who Tweeted Kobe Bryant Rape Case

A view of the Washington Post's new building on March 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Late update: The Washington Post announced Tuesday evening that Somnez was “not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”

Hundreds of members of the Washington Post’s news guild signed a letter on Monday in support of Felicia Somnez, the Post reporter who was suspended after she tweeted the Daily Beast’s detailed report on the late basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s rape case.

The letter, addressed to the Post’s executive editor Marty Baron and managing editor Tracy Grant, urged the paper to lift the suspension and provide protection for the journalist, who was forced to leave her home after receiving “an onslaught of violent messages, including threats that contained her home address” for posting the article.

Somnez, a survivor of sexual assault, had posted a link to the Daily Beast’s report without commentary on Sunday following the news of Bryant’s death. She also tweeted a screenshot of the threatening emails she had received, then deleted all the tweets pertaining to the issue. The Post suspended her shortly afterward.

The letter was signed by some of the paper’s high-profile reporters, including Paul Kane, Wesley Lowery, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and others.

The guild acknowledged that while it was a “a fraught time” to share the report, “we believe it is our responsibility as a news organization to tell the public the whole truth as we know it — about figures and institutions both popular and unpopular, at moments timely and untimely.”

“The Post’s handling of this issue shows utter disregard for best practices in supporting survivors of sexual violence — including the practices we use in our own journalism,” the guild wrote in its letter. “Assault survivors inside and outside this newsroom deserve treatment that is fair and transparent; that does not blame victims or compromise the safety of survivors.”

The guild also slammed the Post’s “arbitrary and over-broad” policy on social media that led to Somnez’ suspension.

“The company should issue a statement condemning abuse of its reporters, allow Felicia to return to work, rescind whatever sanctions have been imposed and provide her with any resources she may request as she navigates this traumatic experience,” the members wrote.

The outlet’s communications office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on the letter at the time of writing.

After news of the suspension broke, Grant told Post columnist Erik Wemple that Somnez’s tweets had “undermined the work of her colleagues” and that the outlet was reviewing whether they had violated the Post’s social media policy.

On Monday, Somnez provided the New York Times a brief email Baron had sent her regarding her tweet.

“Felicia, a real lack of judgment to tweet this,” Baron wrote with a screenshot of the post. “Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Somnez also told the New York Times on Monday that she had “expected to get some blowback” for posting the story, but she was troubled by the erasure of Bryant’s alleged misconduct in wake of his death.

“I can understand that it would be difficult for people to read that,” she said. “But it’s also difficult, I imagine, for all of the survivors in the country to see these allegations essentially be erased, which is how I felt in those couple of hours in the newsroom.”

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. Washington Post: "All the News That’s Fit to Print (as long as it doesn’t upset anyone…)"

  2. Avatar for pol pol says:

    Bravo Ms. Somnez! Bravo, Washington Post news guild! Speak the truth!

  3. I’m going with Ms. Somnez and the Guild on this one. She’s suspended because she linked to a legitimate story about a public figure? Isn’t that a normal and appropriate practice of public discourse?

  4. I was wearily reminded that major media institutions cannot be counted upon to provide a full accounting of events when I noticed that, in the multitudes of reports on Bryant’s death, I saw zero references to his sexual assault. At the time, it was covered widely. A quick check of Wikipedia refreshed many of the specifics. He settled a civil suit for what is speculated to be in the range of 2.5M.

    Related: In MA there is a bill pending to stop use of NDAs and taxpayer payouts to victims of sexual abuse.

    Suppression of these facts contributes to a culture where sexual assault is under reported, misunderstood and perpetuated…as long as you have a bag of cash.

  5. That has been bothering me. All this news about Byant’s death. “We will interrupt this telecast to go to a news conference” where we will tell you nothing more than you already have heard, but no one will mention the rape case which was all over the news not that many years ago. The rape case is the only way I was familiar with his name.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

155 more replies


Avatar for paulw Avatar for pol Avatar for littlegirlblue Avatar for matthew1961 Avatar for imkmu3 Avatar for topcat Avatar for carlosfiance Avatar for sniffit Avatar for daveyjones64 Avatar for 26degreesrising Avatar for goldenbear Avatar for pencilpusher Avatar for benthere Avatar for pareedave Avatar for Goldspinner Avatar for castor_troy Avatar for tigermac Avatar for grack Avatar for causeforconcern Avatar for rockitttla Avatar for anon84323658 Avatar for ANNFFL Avatar for Horsewhipple Avatar for AM_PM

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: