Washington Post staffers said the chaos sparked by Twitter battles between Felicia Sonmez and other reporters over the suspension of Dave Weigel was a “clusterf–k” that has been made worse by her “pouring gasoline on the fire and inviting people to watch.”
In recent days, Sonmez, who recently lost a discrimination lawsuit that she filed against her newspaper, has defied management’s edict to rein in her Twitter attacks on colleagues.
On Thursday, she accused the reporters who sent out tweets praising the Washington Post as a “collegial” workplace of “downplaying the Post’s workplace issues.”
Sonmez noted that the reporters who “issued synchronized tweets … are all white” and are “among the highest-paid employees in the newsroom, making double and even triple what some other National desk reporters are making, particularly journalists of color.”
She added: “They are among the ‘stars’ who ‘get away with murder’ on social media.”
Sonmez on Thursday also accused the newspaper’s editors of “punishing reporters for their trauma” and of “discouraging them from seeking help they need.”
The New York Post has reached out to the Washington Post seeking comment.
Sonmez was reacting to an email from Matea Gold, the Washington Post’s national editor, who last month urged staffers to “take time to assess how you are doing” and “seek help if you need to talk to someone” following the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.
Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that Sonmez sent a “reply all” email to staffers at the newspaper announcing that she was “punished [in 2018] after I told an editor that I had to take a walk around the block after reading a difficult story.”
“I care deeply about my colleagues, and I want this institution to provide support for all employees,” Sonmez tweeted.
“Right now, the Post is a place where many of us fear our trauma will be used against us, based on the company’s past actions.”
Washington Post staffers anonymously quoted by Vanity Fair said they are disturbed by Sonmez’s continued tweeting.
“Working at a huge news organization — the Post, the New York Times, CNN — is like living in a big city where there are always emergencies,” one staffer said.
“As a colleague, you probably should be trying to help fund the fire department or city services and make it a better place to live; at worst, you’re not paying your taxes,” they continued.
“And then you have Felicia, who is essentially pouring gasoline on every fire and inviting people to watch.”
Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of the newspaper, has remained silent on Sonmez’s continued Twitter rants despite issuing a memo on Tuesday reminding staffers to be respectful of each other on social media.
“We do not tolerate colleagues attacking colleagues either face to face or online. Respect for others is critical to any civil society, including our newsroom,” she wrote. “The newsroom social media policy points specifically to the need for collegiality.”
“In the last year, we have enforced, through conversations, mediation and disciplinary measures, egregious violations of our social media policy, just as we have enforced our overall standards,” Buzbee added.
“As we have said, we plan to update the social media policy. Until then, the current policy remains in effect. It states: When it comes to your colleagues, be constructive and collegial: If you have a question or concern about something that has been published, speak to your colleague directly.”
Buzbee added: “We respect and do not wish to inhibit any employee’s right to raise legitimate workplace issues.”
“We know it takes bravery to call out problems. And we pledge to openly and honestly address problems brought to us.”
“We moved quickly to show our intolerance for a sexist re-tweet sent by an employee last Friday.”
Buzbee’s memo followed a missive she issued over last weekend as the Twitter storm brewed.
She wrote: “We are a collegial and creative newsroom doing an astonishing amount of important and groundbreaking journalism. One of the great strengths of our newsroom is our collaborative spirit.”
After the second memo, some of the paper’s most prominent journalists chimed in to calm the boiling tempers at the Jeff Bezos-owned broadsheet. Their tweets included nearly identical language professing how “proud” they are to work at the newspaper and the “collegial” attitude in the newsroom.
Ashley Parker, the White House bureau chief, tweeted: “The Post is not perfect. No institution is. But I’m proud to work here. I love coming to work (almost) every single day, and knowing that my colleagues are collegial, collaborative and the fun humans — not to mention talented journalists — who are always striving to do better.”
Investigative political reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted, “no institution is perfect, including the post. but the place is filled with many terrific people who are smart and collegial. i’m proud to work here.”
And Amy Gardner, a political reporter, wrote: “The Washington Post newsroom is filled with collegial, collaborative and respectful journalists who do critically important work every day. I’m immensely proud to work here.”
Sonmez quickly mocked the idea that her place of work was “collegial” — citing posts by Jose Del Real and Lisa Rein, two other reporters, who criticized her for her tweetstorm.
The controversy was ignited last week by Sonmez’s anger over Weigel’s retweet of a joke that she deemed sexist.
“Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual,” read the original tweet by YouTuber Cam Harless.
After Sonmez confronted Weigel on the company’s internal Slack, she then posted to Twitter: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”
Weigel, 40, responded by deleting the retweet and apologizing.
“I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke. I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm,” he tweeted.
Del Real, a features writer for the newspaper, took issue with Sonmez’s public criticism of Weigel.
Del Real acknowledged that Weigel’s retweet was “terrible and unacceptable,” though he also criticized Sonmez for “rallying the internet to attack him for a mistake he made.”
He said Sonmez’s tactic “doesn’t solve anything.”
He tweeted: “Felicia, we all mess up from time to time.”
“Engaging in repeated and targeted public harassment of a colleague is neither a good look nor is it particularly effective. It turns the language of inclusivity into clout chasing and bullying. I don’t think this is appropriate…There is such a thing as challenging with compassion.”
When Sonmez slammed Del Real and others, Rein, who covers the federal government for the Post, responded by tweeting: “Please stop.”