Felicia Sonmez Fired from the Washington Post

The Look of a Recently Unemployed Journalist.

On June 9th, after a week of total drama at the Washington Post, the paper had no other option than to fire Felicia Sonmez, their national political reporter and a target of every Kobe Bryant fan in the world. Sonmez’s exit from the WaPo comes after a week of drama and infighting that ignited plenty of heated conversations over newsroom inequity and social-media use, with multiple reporters taking shots at each other in public. Not a good look for the paper.

But mostly I have never heard about her until I saw a piece on Twitter that pretty much ticked me off.

It’s 2020 on Long Island. I’m watching television and scrolling through Twitter to see if anything was interesting. Then I heard the news about Kobe Bryant, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers star. Most people would post a celebrity on social media is if they’re dead or something bad happened. Turns out, both happened on that day as Kobe, along with his daughter and seven other people, were killed in a plane crash. At that time people silently stare at their phones, some are sobbing. The air stopped circulating; grief descended on earth like it was a flood.

I then checked Twitter for details about this. I see that the aforementioned Felicia Sonmez has shared a link to a three-year-old article about seventeen-year-old rape allegations against Kobe. I became enraged inside. I didn’t know what to say or feel after all that was going on. The helicopter was still burning on a hillside and Sonmez let loose a nuclear bomb in the hearts of every Kobe fan. Her tweet served no purpose whatsoever other than to promote her own brand as a self-anointed #MeToo advocate. It’s like she smelled a gas leak in someone’s house and lit a match, intent on seizing the moment for herself. And when that house predictably went up in flames and plenty of smoke and a Twitter mob mobilized, Sonmez was shocked, so shocked that she was so misunderstood. Shocked, even though her motivation remained maddeningly undefined, other than a condescending Twitter lecture that the truth always trumps everything, including kindness, empathy and basic humanity, regardless of timing, regardless of nuance, regardless of dead children.

Her actions showed me that she was a total egomaniac.

As the mob pursued her posthaste, Sonmez doubled down on her flamethrowing, replacing a story of violent death with a story about herself, about the Twitter rage she had single handedly inspired but for which she took zero responsibility (Cue Mel Gibson’s infamous rage rant where he called his ex-girlfriend a dishonest you-know-what). She didn’t stop to reflect on what just occurred. She didn’t recognize a whole city had been kicked in the gut. She didn’t recognize that a mother had lost her partner and child in the very same minute. She didn’t stop to wonder what it’s like to die on impact, for which there are no adjectives other than harrowing, violent, painful. And perhaps most frightening, Felicia Sonmez did not even pause to consider the racial implications of her itchy Twitter finger, apparently forgetting the vile history of white women spinning false narratives about the tired old trope of the violently sexual black man. (One question: What are they teaching at Harvard, her alma mater, these days?)

Or perhaps she thought of all these things and just didn’t care. Either way, she carried on like a delusional woman.

As I’ve said in my previous piece on Sonmez, which you can find here, I’ve said the following:

“I’d like people with an open mind to point out while Felicia Sonmez just tweeted out she wants due process for reporters, she’s the same woman who made a flimsy allegation against Jonathan Kaiman (Not the former North Hempstead Supervisor) of sexual abuse, and he received none, forced to resign. Felicia Sonmez not only smeared Kobe Bryant hours after his death, but she also attacked her colleague in Beijing, helping to destroy him (an innocent man convicted of nothing). It’s funny that Sonmez tried to get Caitlin Flanagan & Emily Yoffe fired from Atlantic for criticizing her — after ruining someone’s life for a drunken, consensual hook-up. Somewhere on this earth, Kaiman is having a rueful chuckle.”

I was part of the Twitter mob that came after Sonmez for her actions. Many people used the #FireFeliciaSonmez hashtag while some (like me) called her out on her bullshit. I got myself blocked which I’m not proud of; I understand that nothing good can come from a mob. But my desire for Sonmez to be punished was visceral and red-hot. And the weeks after that fiasco, the impulse is not going away. I can’t even figure out why I still care; I’ve never met the woman, and if the remembrances about Kobe — stories about his visiting sick children in hospitals while insisting on no press, his fierce advocacy of the WNBA and all women in sports, his tireless work to end homelessness in Los Angeles — are any indication, her tweet was ultimately meaningless. It did nothing to help sexual assault survivors and nothing to diminish the man and make him less than immortal.

But I’m not the only one who appeared bothered by her actions. Adeline Dimond wrote a terrific piece on why she will never forgive Felicia Sonmez titled “Why Can’t I Forgive Felicia Sonmez?” Even Nancy Rommelmann wrote a cathartic story titled “The Shiv in the Hand of Kindness,” which brought me some measure of relief. In the wake of the tragedy, Sonmez was suspended by the Washington Post over her tweets in which she made herself the victim, but then she was later reinstated after a massive pressure campaign by the Washington Post Guild, her allies and a public threat she made to Marty Baron on Twitter. Which you can see right here:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: She’s genuinely doubling down on her crap. Felicia Sonmez turned a national tragedy into a news story about herself and became vilified by majority of Angelenos. She became “the reporter who posted about Kobe Bryant right after he and his daughter died.” All in all, she was NOT the victim in that case. Her self-indulgent attempt at click baiting by taking a dump on Kobe Bryant on the day he died was disgusting. Her supporters have emboldened her, but her audacious downplaying of Kobe Bryant’s legacy became her bread and butter. Her erroneous timely reporting seems celebratory of a Legend. She deserved her suspension and should not have been reinstated. While I supported Sonmez’s suspension based on her shameful soulless tweets about Kobe Bryant, I criticized her for making stories about themselves. While she may not be wrong, that Kobe’s legacy must be taken as a whole, good and bad, making that argument in the midst of our grief was incredibly poor judgement. She wasn’t reporting the truth as it was never proved Kobe Bryant raped anyone. Not only that, but it is also shameless to bring it up after he just died, and all she did was complain about sympathy. Truth be told, nobody cares. She was horrible to put that out there, and continuing to play the victim, and putting her boss on blast for good measure.

Fast forward two years later, where the seemingly unending dramatics at the Washington Post began late last week when their political reporter Dave Weigel retweeted a sexist post about bisexual women. It was misguided at that point, but I would definitely agree that is pretty much offensive. He would later apologize for said tweet, but not before our old friend Felicia Sonmez publicly called him out along with the paper’s management, writing, “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”

It became so toxic that fellow Post reporter Jose A. Del Real then publicly accused Sonmez on Saturday of “repeated and targeted public harassment of a colleague,” which led to several tweets worth of beef between the two until Del Real blocked her Sunday. Talk about personal problems coming into the workplace and being unprofessional.

The weekend of beef and twitter wars prompted Executive Editor Sally Buzbee (Who replaced the retired Marty Barron) to issue a somewhat vague memo telling staffers to play nice and be good little boys and girls. But tensions remained high on Monday as the paper’s video technician Breanna Muir reportedly replied-all to the memo to cheer on Sonmez and call out a different colleague for referring to her in a tweet as “Breanna Taylor” instead of her real name. The Post has a “toxic work environment,” Muir wrote in her staff-wide note.

On Tuesday, Buzbee sent out yet another company-wide memo, stating that the paper does “not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues” and promising to enforce the paper’s social media and workplace harassment policies, which came hours after Sonmez put out a 30-tweet thread alleging editors took a years-long approach of preferential treatment for higher-profile reporters and their social media presence. Sonmez, meanwhile, continued to tweet, highlighting critical posts from Del Real (who had not responded to Sonmez after Saturday) as a mockery of Buzbee‘s claim to a “collegial workplace.”

“Post employees have been pleading with management *for years* to take action to live up to their words when it comes to inclusivity, fairness and protecting their staff,” Sonmez wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “The only thing that seems to actually bring about change is when the frustrations boil over into public view.”

Of course, nobody in the Post newsroom want to align with Sonmez's personal vendettas, as veteran Post reporter Lisa Rein then stepped in to publicly plead with Sonmez: “Please stop.” That same afternoon, several Washington Post reporters, including Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, tweeted about how “proud” they are to work at the newspaper, that personal grudges should be set to the side for the sake of the newspaper. That bright moment prompted Sonmez to post a lengthy thread on Thursday noting how “the reporters who issued synchronized tweets this week downplaying the Post’s workplace issues have a few things in common.” She also added that they are “All white” and “They are among the ‘stars’ who ‘get away with murder’ on social media.”

That same day of Sonmez’s manifesto, Somnez was officially fired from the Washington Post. The paper emailed a termination letter, according to The New York Times, pointing to “misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.”

“We cannot allow you to continue to work as a journalist representing The Washington Post,” the letter said.

The Washington Post Guild, the same union that defended Sonmez after she made Kobe lower than scum, declined to discuss Sonmez’s firing in a statement Thursday, but it did warn that workers should only be disciplined with “just cause,” by saying; “The Washington Post Guild’s mission is to ensure equal treatment and protection for all employees and uplift members as they fight to create a just and inclusive workplace in which workers can thrive,” the guild’s leadership said. “Unit leadership is committed to ensuring that our contract is respected and workers are only disciplined with just cause. We represent and provide support to all members facing discipline. We do not comment on individual personnel issues.”

Like I said before, somewhere on this earth, Kaiman is having a rueful chuckle after all this is going on. Kobe Bryant fans are probably celebrating her dismissal. But some people will still defend Felicia Sonmez, but I don’t really blame them. But the fact is this; she took advantage of a tragedy to polish her own brand. When questioned, she doubled down instead of reflecting, let alone apologizing. This is not adult behavior. Felicia Sonmez screwed Felicia Sonmez for being unprofessional, and yet her childish behavior on social media sure bit her hard.

Sources:

Why Can’t I Forgive Felicia Sonmez? | by Adeline Dimond | The Bad Influence | Medium

The Washington Post Fires Felicia Sonmez Amid Week of Infighting (yahoo.com)

Kobe Ain’t Perfect, Why Smear Him? | by Matthew Hollie | Medium

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Writer who is an Agree to Disagree kind of person. passionate New York sports fan.

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Matthew Hollie

Writer who is an Agree to Disagree kind of person. passionate New York sports fan.