- WaPo staff are backing reporter Felicia Sonmez, who was barred from covering sexual misconduct.
- Sonmez said her reporting might be perceived as a "conflict" due to her status as a survivor.
- After Sonmez spoke of the ban on Twitter, The Post told Insider it would remove the "limitations."
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
The Washington Post newsroom is banding together in support of a reporter who said she was barred from covering sexual misconduct and #MeToo because she is a survivor of sexual assault.
Felicia Sonmez, who The Post characterized to Insider as a breaking news reporter, said in a lengthy Twitter thread on Sunday she is no longer allowed to cover these topics because of a potential "appearance of a conflict of interest."
Sonmez has spoken publicly about sexual assault and misconduct before, which landed her in hot water with the now-former executive editor Marty Baron.
In January 2020, after the death of Kobe Bryant, Sonmez reminded her Twitter followers - who were mourning the basketball star - that he had previously been accused of rape. After publishing that tweet, Baron and other top editors suspended Sonmez. Hundreds of Post reporters at the time pushed for her reinstatement, and the top editors reversed the decision. Sonmez received threats from angry NBA fans for her tweet.
A year after that tweet, Sonmez said she felt unsupported by the newspaper. She tweeted that a conversation with her therapist asking about her feelings working in The Post newsroom resulted in tears, and added that she hasn't been able to cover anything related to sexual misconduct or the #MeToo movement.
The coverage ban is "harmful," she said, and is causing trauma.
"I haven't been able to work for much of the past two weeks, am taking sick leave next week and have experienced a recurrence of the same debilitating symptoms that I had when I came forward about my assault 3 years ago," she wrote.
-Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) March 28, 2021
"I've pleaded with the editors to lift it, to no avail," she said. "So I've just kept trying to do my job."
Politico's Playbook obtained emails showing Sonmez urging top editors at The Post to reverse the ban.
"It is humiliating to again and again have to tell my colleagues and editors that I am not allowed to do my job fully because I was assaulted," she wrote in an email to national editor Steven Ginsberg in May, Playbook reported.
"I believe it's important for you to know that The Post's decision on this matter has had negative repercussions for me personally in the past," she added. "[I]t's the tortured explanations I have to give whenever there is breaking news on this topic and I'm not allowed to cover it."
Now that Baron is out as executive editor, Ginsberg is considered one of the top candidates in the running, Playbook reported.
Sonmez's newest tweets opened up a rift, with not only Washington Post reporters weighing in, but also members of the other well-known media outlets.
Several Post reporters supported her on social media, saying Sonmez represents "the kind of reporter you *need* when covering stories about sexual assault."
-Kim Bellware (@bellwak) March 28, 2021
-Amy B Wang (@amybwang) March 28, 2021
When reached for comment, The Post's chief communications officer Kristine Coratti Kelly told Insider the newspaper's editors "have concluded such limitations are unnecessary." Kelly declined to clarify when asked specifically about the limitations she referenced and what prompted the decision.
In a later tweet Monday, Sonmez said the newspaper informed her it would be "rescinding its ban."
"This is good news, but it's unfortunate that it had to come at such a high emotional toll, and after my distress was dismissed for years," Sonmez wrote.