Washington Post editor scolds reporters after ‘sexist’ tweet ignites Twitter brawl

The Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post is fighting off its own insurrection after a female journalist’s accusations of sexism sparked an online Twitter brawl involving two of her male colleagues — one of whom was suspended on Monday.

The paper’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, fired off a memo over the weekend demanding reporters “treat each other with respect and kindness” — just days after political reporter David Weigel was called out by fellow staffer Felicia Sonmez on Twitter for retweeting a “sexist” joke

Weigel, who covers politics for the daily broadsheet, had retweeted a post by a Twitter user who wrote: “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

Sonmez, who also covers politics for the paper, was angry by Weigel’s retweet, writing: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”

Washington Post reporter David Weigel
Washington Post reporter David Weigel (above) apologized on Friday after he was called out by colleague Felicia Sonmez for retweeting a “sexist” joke.
Twitter / @daveweigel
Weigel retweeted a post by YouTuber Cam Harless who wrote: “Every girl is bi.  You just have to figure out if it's polar or sexual.
Weigel retweeted a post by YouTuber Cam Harless who wrote: “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”
Twitter
Weigel tweeted that he had removed the retweet and apologized.
Weigel tweeted that he had removed the retweet and apologized.

She had south the Washington Post last year for preventing her from covering sexual-misconduct stories after she revealed that she was an assault survivor. The lawsuit was tossed last month.

Weigel later tweeted: “I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke. I apologize and didn’t mean to cause any harm.”

Apparently the apology was not enough for the paper’s brass. On Monday, Weigel was suspended for one month without pay, sources told CNN.

Washington Post COO Kris Coratti Kelly told the New York Post: “Editors have made clear to the staff that the tweet was reprehensible and demeaning language or actions like that will not be tolerated.”

The drama kept escalating over the weekend when another male reporter at the paper, Jose Del Real, admonished Sonmez for going public with her complaints about Weigel’s retweet.

Felicia Sonmez
Sonmez, who also covers politics for the Washington Post, was angry by Weigel’s retweet, writing: “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”
Twitter / @feliciasonmez

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.”

Del Real, a features reporter who writes about American life and politics, 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.”

Del Real’s tweets enraged Sonmez, who accused him of “respond[ing] with even more vitriol.”

Sonmez then posted another tweet asking if Buzbee and another senior editor at the paper, Matea Gold, agreed with her.

“Objecting to sexism is not ‘clout chasing’,” Sonmez tweeted. “It’s not ‘harassment.’ And it’s certainly not ‘cruelty’.”

According to CNN, Gold told staffers on an internal Slack channel: “I just want to assure all of you that The Post is committed to maintaining a respectful workplace for everyone. We do not tolerate demeaning language or actions.”

Del Real then responded to Sonmez, tweeting: “I reject your attempt to make a specific critique of your regular public bullying into a sweeping opera about principles.”

Another Post reporter, Jose Del Real, took issue with Sonmez going public with her criticisms.
Another Post reporter, Jose Del Real, took issue with Sonmez going public with her criticisms.
Twitter / @jdelreal

He wrote that Weigel’s retweet was “strongly condemned internally” and that he was “confused about [Sonmez’s] implication otherwise.”

Del Real add that as a “gay Mexican American,” he didn’t need Sonmez to educate him “on being from a marginalized group.”

Over the weekend, Sonmez continued to tweet about the subject, posting supportive comments as well as unflattering and misogynistic messages she received from critics.

on sunday, the New York Times reported that Buzbee sent a memo to her newspaper’s journalists with the subject line “respect and kindness.”

“We expect the staff to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online,” Buzbee 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.”

Buzbee added: “The Washington Post is committed to an inclusive and respectful environment free of harassment, discrimination or bias of any sort.”

Sonmez blasted Buzbee's memo, saying that it gave more
Sonmez blasted Buzbee’s memo, saying that it gave more “fodder” to people online who continued their “harassment.”
AP

“When issues arise, please raise them with leadership or human resources and we will address them promptly and firmly.”

But Sonmez was annoyed by the memo, saying that Buzbee “provides fodder for *more* harassment.”

She then posted several tweets that contained crude, misogynistic language from random Twitter users to bolster her claim about Buzbee’s memo.

Later on Sunday, Del Real posted several more tweets about the incident, though he didn’t directly tag Sonmez.

He tweeted about coming under “an unrelenting series of attacks intended to tarnish my professional and personal reputation” because of “[s]ome tweets I sent calling for compassion within our workplace.”

Del Real then tweeted that he had “temporarily deactivated” his Twitter account “in hopes of de-escalating.”

“Hurt people hurt people,” Del Real tweeted.

The Washington Post has been gripped by turmoil in recent days over its role in the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp legal battle.
The Washington Post has been gripped by turmoil in recent days over its role in the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp legal battle.
Getty Images

“I’ve had a long week and made the mistake of logging into Twitter,” Del Real tweeted.

“What a horror show. Can everyone just be kind to each other?”

The Washington Post had already been gripped by turmoil before the Twitter kerfuffle. It had to issue two lengthy corrections to an article by its notorious “internet culture” reporter Taylor Lorenz.

The piece, which had already been edited secretly after it was published Thursday, detailed how content creators made out big in the sensational Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation lawsuit that ended last week.

The newspaper has also been criticized for its role in publishing the now-infamous op-ed by Heard, which triggered the defamation lawsuit filed by ex-husband Depp.

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