A Washington Post reporter has been suspended over a controversial tweet about Kobe Bryant, just hours after the sporting great's death.
National political news reporter Felicia Sonmez was widely condemned after after retweeting a story about rape allegations against Bryant just hours after confirmation of the NBA legend’s death.
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Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in Southern California on Sunday.
Sonmez says she received death threats after posting a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing the rape accusations against the Lakers star, which were eventually dropped before a subsequent civil case was settled out of court.
The Washington Post accused Sonmez of displaying "poor judgment" in posting the tweet and has stood her down while it reviews the situation.
“National political reporter Felicia Sonmez was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy,” Washington Post managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement.
“The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues,” she added.
Sonmez, who posted a link to the article with no caption, defended her actions by saying that “any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” according to screenshots of the now-deleted tweets.
“Well, THAT was eye-opening. To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story – which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me.
“Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling. That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”
Independent journalist Matthew Keys called Sonmez out on the matter, saying Sonmez had “deleted her crass tweets” about the NBA legend, but “screen grabs are forever.”
Washington Post reporter @feliciasonmez deleted her crass tweets about Kobe Bryant. But screen grabs are forever – and I took some before she deleted the tweets.— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) January 26, 2020
Bye, Felicia. pic.twitter.com/IvNZHkiBam
Weather conditions at centre of investigation into crash
A growing investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others aboard a Sikorsky S-76B will include the FBI and focus primarily on weather conditions and potential mechanical issues.
Because of fog and poor visibility, the Los Angeles police and county sheriff's departments had grounded their helicopters.
Aviation officials told the Los Angeles Times a twin-engine failure in the S-76B was highly unlikely.
Bryant's helicopter departed Orange County at 9:06 a.m. PST. The helicopter crashed in heavy fog, according to witness accounts.
The helicopter transporting Bryant on Sunday is the same model in use during two fatal crashes in Louisiana in 2009 and 2013. The National Transportation Safety Board released information on the investigations and found a fractured rotor blade to be the cause of the 2013 crash that killed three on board. The 2009 crash was caused by a collision with a red-tailed hawk, shattering the helicopter windshield and causing fuel monitors to fail.
It is standard practice for the FBI to assist the Federal Aviation Administration in crash investigations.
Bryant's helicopter was built in 1991 and had no other incident reports on file with either organization.
A recovery effort at the crash site is expected to take several days. A 5-mile no-fly zone was set up by the FAA.