News about Kobe’s death in a helicopter crash sent shockwaves through social media. But what one WaPo reporter tweeted got her suspended. Was that the right call, or not?
Depending on your perspective, outrage over a WaPo reporter retweeting an old headline about Kobe shortly after the tragic deaths of both him and his daughter cause WaPo to either grow a conscience or surrender to woke activists.
For anyone who was offline yesterday, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were in a fatal helicopter crash over the weekend. Their deaths hit onlookers on social media particularly hard.
As so often happens when a famous figure dies, people start looking back over their lives. Some focussed on his family. Some focused on his various areas of accomplishment since retiring from sports.
Most folks, obviously, talked about how he played the game.
But when you’re famous, a retrospective on your life won’t only focus on your accomplishments. Scandals come up, too.
And, in this MeToo world we now live in, you can guess which of his scandals one WaPo reporter brought up for conversation.
Felicia Sonmez, who covers national politics for the Post, took to Twitter shortly after the world learned of Bryant’s death along with eight others aboard his private helicopter which crashed outside of Los Angeles.
She posted a link to an April 2016 story from the news site The Daily Beast which carried the headline: ‘Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.’
…Bryant, who was 27 years old at the time, was arrested and charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment – crimes which could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.
The accuser agreed to drop the charges on condition that Bryant issue a formal apology in court. Bryant accepted the terms and had his lawyer read the apology.
Sonmez posted a link to an article by The Daily Beast which included details about the alleged rape, including statements to police made by the accuser.
The victim’s testimony was quite graphic, including details like her protesting that she needs to leave, telling him no, and crying while he proceeded with grabbing her by the throat, grabbing her chest and butt, grabbing at/rubbing her crotch with his hand for a few minutes, him removing his pants, lifting her skirt, removing her panties and ‘coming inside’ her.
A detective testified in a preliminary hearing that the accuser underwent an examination at a local hospital.
‘[The nurse] stated that there were several lacerations to the victim’s posterior fourchette or vaginal area, and two of those lacerations were approximately one centimeter in length,’ testified Detective Doug Winters of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
‘And there were many, I believe, 2 millimeter lacerations. Too many to count…
‘[The nurse] stated that the injuries were consistent with penetrating genital trauma.
‘That it’s not consistent with consensual sex.’
Felica Sonmez was NOT the one to write the original stories. She merely retweeted them.
Why would she do such a thing while the world is still reeling from the news of his death? Well, this might explain it:
After David Klion tweeted the link to a story about this suspension with the following quote:
“It’s outrageous and cowardly that the Washington Post is suspending a reporter for tweeting factual, reported information about a public figure who was credibly accused of rape.”
He followed up the thread with two more posts. These two posts give us ‘the rest of the story’…
NYT and the Atlantic will do nothing to their employees who smear a reporter (relying on a debunked report by their friend) on Twitter; meanwhile WaPo will suspend that same reporter for tweeting facts about Kobe Bryant and setting off the MAGA crowd. It's sickening.
— David Klion? (@DavidKlion) January 27, 2020
Sorry, David, I don’t think the reaction to this story breaks neatly along ideological lines. It’s more of a ‘is now the right time to talk about this’ question… regardless of who you are pulling the lever for in November.
Some will say that even supposing he is guilty of everything he was accused of, it’s cruel to his grieving family to bring it up again.
The flip side of that same coin would be that supposing he was guilty, it is cruel to the victim to see him cheered him as a national icon while the harm he did gets swept quietly under the rug.
Say the death announcement was about Bill Cosby instead of Kobe. Would he have been fêted as ‘America’s Dad’? Celebrated for his ground-breaking role in Television and comedy? Or would he be remembered as that creepy serial rapist who passed himself off as a harmless goofball?
Was this topic ‘out of bounds’ and something a WaPo reporter (who was herself a victim of sexual assault) should be suspended for mentioning or not?