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Reporter criticizes Washington Post for keeping her off sexual assault stories

A Washington Post reporter is publicly criticizing the news organization for keeping her from covering stories related to sexual assault and harassment. 

In a 16-tweet thread on Sunday, Post breaking news reporter Felicia Sonmez expressed distress at how she has been treated by Post leadership over the last year, accusing top brass at the paper of not supporting survivors of sexual violence and opening her up to further trauma stemming from her own assault. 

"I’ve tried to keep my head down and just do my job the best I can, despite having to take myself off sexual assault-related stories at least once every week or two, sometimes even more often," Sonmez wrote on Twitter.

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Sonmez wrote that she was taken off such stories during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court confounding its partisan critics Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant Alyssa Milano says she could 'potentially run' for House in 2024 MORE, who faced sexual assault allegations stemming from his high school years.

"I faced no ban my first three months on the job. I wrote #MeToo-related stories with no problem. It was only once the Kavanaugh story broke in Sept. 2018 that the editors enacted one. It was lifted several months later, then reinstated in late 2019 when I was being attacked online after the publication of a story about the man who assaulted me. The ban has been in place ever since, for more than a year now."

In November of 2019, Sonmez detailed an account of an alleged sexual assault by a former boss at the Los Angeles Times in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review.

“I’m very grateful that the LA Times took this issue seriously,” she said. Still, “it was really tough. The trauma of coming forward really hit me. I couldn’t bike. I couldn’t drive. The one time I finally was able to go to the grocery store, I just sort of stood there in shock. My world just, really quickly, sort of shrunk.”

Two months later, in January of 2020, Sonmez was suspended after tweeting about rape accusations against former NBA star Kobe Bryant after his death in a helicopter crash. 

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Hundreds of Post reporters signed a letter pledging support for Sonmez, and she was reinstated the next day. The newspaper said it had determined her tweets were "ill-timed" but "not in clear and direct violation" of the outlet's social media policy.

After she was reinstated, Sonmez called on executive editor Marty Baron, who reportedly made the decision to suspend her and has since announced his retirement, to publicly address his rationale for placing her on leave.

“Washington Post journalists endeavor to live up to the paper’s mission statement, which states, ‘The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world,’ ” Sonmez said at the time. “My suspension, and Mr. Baron’s Jan. 26 email warning me that my tweets about a matter of public record were ‘hurting this institution,’ have unfortunately sown confusion about the depth of management’s commitment to this goal."

On Sunday, Politico reported that during a March 16 town-hall style Zoom call meant to rally the newsroom in the wake of racist online attacks against Post reporter Seung Min Kim, Sonmez wrote in a company-wide chat box: "I wish editors had publicly supported me in the same way.”

The outlet, citing newsroom sources, reported Sonmez had to "take herself off" a story about former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who has been accused of sexual assault and recently announced he will run for U.S. Senate. 

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Sonmez said Post leadership has kept her off stories related to sexual assault due to what she says they perceive to be “the appearance of a conflict of interest." 

"They’ve told me they don’t believe there’s an actual conflict, or even that my writing would be biased in any way. I’ve sent them a long list of stories I’ve written that proves that’s not the case," she said. "This reason, I believe, makes no sense." 

The Washington Post did not respond to a request for comment. Sonmez declined to comment further as to whether she has heard from Post leadership since the March 16 Zoom call or her comments on Sunday.