The Washington Post has fired national political reporter Felicia Sonmez, The Daily Beast has confirmed, capping off a week’s worth of highly public drama at the paper.
The Post and Sonmez both declined to comment.
Sonmez’s exit from the paper comes after a week of WaPo infighting that stoked heated conversations over newsroom inequity and social-media use, with multiple reporters taking shots at each other in public.
Somnez was 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 declined to discuss Sonmez’s firing in a statement Thursday, but it did warn that workers should only be disciplined with “just cause.”
“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.”
The seemingly unending dramatics began late last week when political reporter Dave Weigel retweeted a sexist post about bisexual women. He later apologized but not before 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!”
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 beefing between the pair until Del Real blocked her Sunday.
The weekend ordeal prompted Executive Editor Sally Buzbee to issue a somewhat vague memo telling staffers to play nice. But tensions remained high on Monday as WaPo 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.” The paper 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. The memo came hours after Sonmez published 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.”
Veteran Post reporter Lisa Rein then stepped in to publicly plead with Sonmez: “Please stop.”
That kumbaya 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 added that they are “All white” and “They are among the ‘stars’ who ‘get away with murder’ on social media.”
Sonmez’s battles with the Post are not new. She previously sued former Executive Editor Marty Baron, then-national editor and current managing editor Steven Ginsberg, and other top brass after the paper temporarily barred her from covering stories involving sexual assault after she revealed herself to be a survivor. Management’s decision caused her “economic loss, humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress,“ Sonmez argued.
A D.C. judge dismissed the lawsuit in March, arguing the Post did not show a “discriminatory motive” when it made the decision. Still, Sonmez has vocalized her frustration with her former paper online, arguing it does not do enough to manage newsroom inequities.
“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.”
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