The Washington Post’s revolving door
People are losing their jobs in all sorts of industries — but chances are the layoffs you’ve heard about most in recent weeks are in finance, tech or the media. Squeakiest wheel and all that. This week brought news that the Washington Post was cutting twenty newsroom jobs and shuttering its gaming vertical.
Also out at the Post: Margaret Sullivan, who has left to sign as a columnist for the Guardian.
It’s not all departures at One Franklin Square though: executive editor Sally Buzbee has signed up a slew of names for the Opinion desk, including conservatives Jim Geraghty and Ramesh Ponnuru from National Review and disaffected liberal Ruy Teixeira. Buzbee has also brought in Emma Grazado from USA Today as the Post’s first “social media coach,” whose responsibility is “growing connections between reporters and audiences.” Cockburn can’t fathom why Post reporters would need social media guidance…
Hi, Felicia: where is Felicia Somnez now?
For ideas on what to do next, perhaps outgoing Washington Post staffers should look to their former colleague Felicia Sonmez — who Cockburn can reveal is now working in retail, after a tipster clocked her while shopping for winter wear earlier this week.
Sonmez, you may recall, was a WaPo political reporter who had previously worked at the Wall Street Journal and in Beijing for the AFP. During her stint at the Post, Cockburn is afraid to say, she gained more notoriety for her spats with her employer and coworkers than for her journalism.
In 2020, she was placed on administrative leave for a possible breach of the Post’s social media policy after tweeting a link to a Daily Beast article about the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, mere hours after the basketball legend had died in a helicopter crash. Three hundred of her fellow “Posties” signed a letter in her defense and she was reinstated.
In 2021, Sonmez filed a $2 million discrimination lawsuit against the Washington Post, alleging that she had been barred from covering stories relating to possible sexual assault, after she had publicly accused a fellow reporter of sexually assaulting her in a letter circulated to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. Sonmez said she “was denied the opportunity to cover many stories that were newsworthy and received widespread attention that would have led to further exposure and career advancement.” The suit was dismissed without prejudice, as, according to Judge Anthony C. Epstein, Sonmez hadn’t made “a plausible claim that the Post took adverse employment actions, or created a hostile work environment, because of her sex or status as a victim of sexual assault.”
In 2022, three months after the lawsuit’s dismissal, Sonmez put her Post colleague David Weigel on blast for retweeting this joke by podcaster Cam Harless: “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” Her sarcastic response: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”
Weigel apologized and was suspended for a month without pay — but Sonmez wasn’t finished, continuing to rail against her employer for the social media policy that had stung both her and her colleague. She locked horns with her fellow WaPo political reporter Jose A. Del Real, who had replied to her saying “Dave’s retweet is terrible and unacceptable. But rallying the internet to attack him for a mistake he made doesn’t actually solve anything.” Another Postie, Lisa Rein, begged Sonmez: “Please stop.” Nevertheless Sonmez persisted.
She was eventually fired over email “for misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your coworkers online and violating the Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.” In July, she announced that the Post Guild was “fighting” to get her job back. “It’s an internal process and will likely be a long slog.” Then in September, Sonmez filed a complaint against the Post with the National Labor Relations Board.
Cockburn would have thought media companies would jump at the chance to hire a reporter as collegial and reasonable as Felicia Sonmez. But apparently they won’t get it, as the forty-year-old Harvard grad has now chosen a more honorable profession.
Frankly, retail work is the backbone of American society. Her new role is also a big middle finger to her old boss Jeff Bezos: what better way to stick it to the man who killed in-person shopping than to work in a store? Cockburn salutes Sonmez on her new path.
Meghan Markle’s blushes over Spare
Is there trouble in paradise, aka Montecito? Meghan Markle was largely absent from Prince Harry’s Spare tour. It was reported that this was due to Meghan letting Harry have his five minutes of fame all to himself. But Cockburn’s spies suggest there is more to the story.
Meghan’s absence is also thought to be due in part to her embarrassment over the book’s revelations. “The sex stuff, the todger, the Elizabeth Arden cream, it hasn’t gone down well, to say the least,” the source claimed. Oh well Harry: Cockburn sees no reason why you wouldn’t be welcomed back to Britain with open arms if need be. Oh wait…
In other royal news, Prince Andrew has been booted from his Buckingham Palace apartment by older brother King Charles III. A source told the Sun that the disgraced prince “brought back a string of new girlfriends to his home in the Palace — even model Caprice,” which rubbed Charlie boy the wrong way. Another American girlfriend? When will the Windsors learn? Randy Andy will have to look for a more humble abode for him and his seventy-two teddy bears…
Here’s where it gets complicated for the Democratic Party. Its top tools are reserved only for Democrats. There’s no wiggle room, as tools like its fundraising giant ActBlue have made clear by kicking non-Democrats off in recent years.
Platforms like ActBlue are bound to face increased grassroots scrutiny, since Sinema’s ongoing usage (her campaign links directly to her ActBlue fundraising page as of publication) is expressly banned by the software company.
“Only Democrats (not Republicans) can use our tools to fundraise,”ActBlue says.
Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema may not be a Democrat anymore, but she still has access to one of Democrats’ premier campaign tools: ActBlue.
The online fundraising platform that has helped Democrats dominate the small-dollar money game for the past decade is still hosting the independent senator’s donation page.
However, that may change as the election cycle progresses, and Sinema’s ultimate ActBlue fate could depend on how the national Democratic Party approaches a potential campaign. A source familiar with the situation tells Inside Elections that ActBlue is monitoring the evolving relationship between Sinema and Democratic party leadership.
No reference or citation, obviously.
Kitara Ravache takes Hill Country by storm
Facts about New York congressman George Santos are few and far between. Santos has lied about his name, his religious background, his education, his employment and his family members dying in global tragedies. Last week it emerged that he’d also been a drag queen in Brazil, performing under the name Kitara Ravache.
What we do know about George Santos is that he’s currently serving in Congress on behalf of New York’s 3rd congressional district — and that he hit up popular intern spot Hill Country Barbecue for karaoke on Wednesday, where he posed for selfies with starstruck staffers.
— Natalie Johnson (@nataliejohnsonn) January 26, 2023
Natalie Johnson, the comms guru in the selfie above, told Cockburn that bumping into Santos was “hilarious.” Cockburn hopes to see the congressman down there next week — appropriately dressed, of course.
An earlier version of this piece misstated the workplace of the reporter Sonmez had accused of sexual assault.