We need a complete and total shutdown of the Washington Post until we can figure out what the hell is going on.
Internal drama at the Post has spilled out into the open on Twitter, resulting in the month-long suspension of national reporter Dave Weigel for a retweet of a supposedly “off-color” joke. The charge was spearheaded by politics reporter Felicia Sonmez, who days later remains on her online crusade on Twitter, divulging gossip and musing on newsroom ethics, or lack thereof.
Features writer Jose A. Del Real found himself embroiled in the drama as well when he stood up for Weigel and drew Sonmez’s ire. “So I hear the Washington Post is a collegial workplace,” she tweeted, alongside a screenshot showing that Del Real had blocked her. WaPo federal government reporter Lisa Rein replied, “please stop.”
The Sonmez-Weigel brouhaha comes on the heels of a controversial story by tech reporter Taylor Lorenz, who claimed she had sought comment from TikTok and YouTube influencers who had covered the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial — influencers who said Lorenz had never been in touch. A misleading editorial note from the Post attempted to sweep the evidence of Lorenz’s dereliction of duty under the carpet. Suffice to say it has been quite the month for Post staff, as they commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Watergate break-in. Decades later, we find ourselves asking: is this an elementary school cafeteria or a professional news organization?
A closer look at the players involved offers some revelations about what’s really going on between Sonmez and the Washington Post. Sonmez is currently engaged in litigation against the Post for discrimination. In March of this year, a judge tossed Sonmez’s case but she is currently appealing it.
Somnez claims that she was barred from reporting on stories concerning sexual assault after speaking publicly about her own sexual assault. She also fell afoul of her paper’s social media policy after a controversial tweet hours after the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, which she deemed an appropriate time to resurface the historic assault accusations against him from a hotel employee. Her tweet drew extreme backlash and condemnation not just from Twitter randoms, but from her colleagues as well. She then claimed that the Post took action to ban her from covering related stories based on her gender.
Sonmez named six of the Post’s top editors as defendants — Marty Baron (who has since retired), senior managing editor Cameron Barr, managing editors Steven Ginsberg and Tracy Grant, financial editor Lori Montgomery, and senior politics editor Peter Wallsten. Sonmez sought $2 million in damages. Baron had admonished Sonmez herself after the tweets about Bryant, saying, “A real lack of judgment to tweet this,” he wrote. “Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.” Sonmez was backed by the Washington Post Writers Union by a letter of support. One of the signatories… Dave Weigel. Sonmez also leaked internal emails to the Post’s chief rival, the New York Times, regarding the actions her paper took against her concerning her tweets about Bryant.
Clearly the situation between Sonmez and her employer remains volatile while she continues to appeal the decision. These factors cannot be ignored in Sonmez’s decision to continue to ignore the direction of Washington Post’s top editors to keep communications internal and respectful among staff. Sonmez has continued to tweetstorm grievances against the Post, in direct defiance of the orders of national editors Sally Buzzbee and Matea Gold.
It certainly looks apparent that despite the suspension of Weigel over a simple retweet, Sonmez is trying to provoke a disciplinary action from her superiors at the Post, which she can then use as evidence of retaliation for her lawsuit in her appeal.
The public appearance is that the inmates are running the Jeffrey Preston Bezos Asylum and that the Post has a completely upside-down idea of what constitutes an ethical lapse. A single retweet, swiftly retracted, is worth a month-long suspension. However calling out colleagues on a public timeline, siccing online mobs on them, leaking internal emails and refusing to comply with workplace directives are allowed to continue. Something stinks at the Washington Post and for once it’s not Dave Weigel.