DAVID BOUDER, AP Media Correspondent
NEW YORK (AP) — The Washington Post has fired Felicia Sonmez, who sparked a heated online debate this week over social media politics and public treatment of colleagues after criticizing a fellow reporter for retweeting an offensive joke.
On Friday, The Post said it would not comment on personal matters. But a copy of the firing letter sent Thursday accusing her of “insubordination, vilifying your colleagues online and violating Post standards for collegiality and inclusion in the workplace” was posted on the Mediaite website and cited in other news reports.
The outspoken political commentator, whose second stint with the Post began in 2018, declined to comment on Friday.
The incident began when Sonmez tweeted a screenshot of an offensive joke that his colleague Dave Weigel tweeted, adding the comment, “It’s fantastic to work for a news agency that allows retweets like this.” According to published reports, The Post suspended Weigel for a month for his retweet.
This prompted another reporter, José Del Real, to criticize Sonmez online. Saying that Weigel was wrong, Del Real called for compassion. “Rallying the internet to attack him for the mistake he made doesn’t really solve anything,” he wrote.
This led to controversy when Sonmez accused Del Real of assaulting her.
As the online debate expanded and attracted more people, Post executive editor Sally Busby sent out two memos urging employees to show respect for each other. The second, on Tuesday, was more violent: Buzbee wrote that “we will not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues in person or online.”
As it gained more and more attention, several postal employees tweeted their support for the paper as a good place to work. Sonmez noted that these individuals were among the paper’s highest-paid stars and suggested that there had long been a double standard in how social media policies were applied to them.
She also retweeted a screenshot saying that Del Real had blocked her on Twitter, adding the comment, “I heard the Washington Post is a collegiate workplace.”
While it was getting attention, another Post reporter, Lisa Rain, tweeted to Sonmez, “Please stop.”
Sonmez, who worked for the Post in the early 2010s, left and returned, sued the Post and its editors-in-chief last year, accusing discrimination of preventing her from reporting sexual assault stories after she previously became a public victim of an attack.
In a resignation letter signed by human resources officer Wayne Connell, The Post said that by questioning colleagues’ motives, Sonmez was damaging the Post’s reputation as an honest and honest journalist.
“The same can be said about your baseless mockery of our policies and practices and our commitment to a safe and supportive work environment,” he wrote.
Sonmeza’s union, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, said it is committed to ensuring workers are only disciplined for good cause, but did not comment on individual staffing issues.
Post columnist Karen Attia tweeted Friday that Sonmez was “always incredibly kind and supportive” of her and reached out to her when Attia became the target of online abuse.
Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.