A Washington Post journalist has been suspended by the newspaper after she tweeted a link on Sunday to a years-old story about the Kobe Bryant rape case just hours after the basketball legend and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash.
Felicia Sonmez, who covers national politics for the Post, took to Twitter shortly after the world learned of Bryant’s death along with eight others aboard his private helicopter which crashed outside of Los Angeles.
She posted a link to an April 2016 story from the news site The Daily Beast which carried the headline: ‘Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.’
The tweet generated hundreds of shares and thousands of likes as well as many comments.
Sonmez says she has received death threats after posting the tweets.
In follow-up tweets, Sonmez wrote: ‘Well, THAT was eye-opening.
‘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.
‘Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.’
Sonmez continued: ‘That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.’
In another follow-up tweet, Sonmez wrote: ‘As an addendum: Hard to see what’s accomplished by messages such as these.
‘If your response to a news article is to resort to harassment and intimidation of journalists, you might want to consider that your behavior says more about you than the person you’re targeting.’
Sonmez deleted the tweets due to the overwhelming backlash, but others on Twitter screengrabbed the posts and responded with disgust.
The reaction on Twitter from Bryant fans was so severe that the hashtag #FireFeliciaSonmez was trending.
Tracy Grant, managing editor of The Washington Post, told DailyMail.com on Sunday: ‘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.’
On Twitter, reaction to Sonmez’s tweet was scathing.
‘What a disgusting post from Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez immediately after Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s death,’ tweeted one Twitter user.
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘It takes immense skill and stupidity to find a way to play the victim, in a moment where 9 people lost their lives in a helicopter crash.
‘Again, delete your account.’
One Twitter user demanded: ‘Hey @washingtonpost , do the right thing and show the world that irresponsible journalism is unacceptable.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘There’s a time & place for everything. Bringing up dirt on someone that just died only a few hours ago is neither the time or place. Felicia is a fucking disgrace to her profession.’
Wrote another Twitter user: ‘Whether it was written by you doesn’t matter. It was YOUR boneheaded decision to repost it within hours of his death.
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘Here’s an idea for @washingtonpost…Send Felicia to Wunan [sic], China as a permanent resident reporter to cover that region.
‘Like next flight out immediately.’
That Twitter post referred to Wuhan, the city in China where a new strand of coronavirus has broken out and spread to other parts of the country and the world, infecting thousands.
Bryant was accused of rape in 2003 by a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel prior to a scheduled knee surgery.
Although he denied the charges, which were dropped when the accuser refused to testify, Bryant did admit to cheating on his wife Vanessa and reportedly settled a civil suit with the alleged victim.
Terms of the agreement were never released.