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Reporter who tweeted about Kobe Bryant's rape allegations gets deaths threats

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Posted at 8:25 PM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 22:25:47-05

In the days since the death of Kobe Bryant, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez's tweets on Sunday have become the subject of discussion among reporters and others.

Sonmez was initially suspended for authoring tweets that pointed out that Kobe Bryant had allegedly raped a woman in Colorado in 2003.

Questions arose on whether a tweet pointing out the allegations were ill-timed, journalism malpractice or simply a part of Bryant's life story. Regardless, a number of colleagues expressed support for Sonmez after her suspension. Support came from Washington Post competitors and staff members.

The backlash for the Washington Post's decision caused the outlet to retract its suspension.

She also received her fair share of criticism. The Washington Post Guild released a statement saying that Sonmez was forced to leave her home over threats of violence.

Sonmez has since deleted the tweets in question.

The Guild went on to say that even though Sonmez has been reinstated, the Washington Post has not apologized for suspending Sonmez. The Guild added that the Washington Post has not taken proper measures to protect Sonmez from the threats she has received. Sonmez echoed the sentiments from her union.

"I hope Washington Post newsroom leaders will not only prioritize their employees’ safety in the face of threats of physical harm but also ensure that no journalist will be punished for speaking the truth," she tweeted.

The Washington Post issued a statement earlier in the week involving the controversy.

“After conducting an internal review, we have determined that, while we consider Felicia’s tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy,” Managing Editor Tracy Grant said in a statement. “Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘we must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence.’ We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths. We regret having spoken publicly about a personnel matter.”