The Washington Post suspended political reporter Dave Weigel without pay for 30 days after he retweeted a sexist joke last week and touched off a public fight on Twitter among staffers at the Jeff Bezos-owned paper.
A spokesperson for the Post declined to comment. Weigel did not respond to emails seeking comment. An autoreply from his Washington Post address said, “I am out of the office and will return on July 5.” Weigel’s suspension was previously reported by CNN.
On Friday, June 3, Weigel had retweeted a post by Cam Harless — a YouTube creator whose Twitter bio says he is a “well-respected shitposter” — which said, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”
That drew fire from Weigel’s colleague, Post political reporter Felicia Sonmez, who quoted the tweet in question and wrote, “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!” Sonmez had previously sued the Washington Post, accusing the publication of discrimination after she publicly said that she had been the victim of sexual assault and was barred from covering stories about sexual misconduct. In March, a judge threw out her lawsuit against the Post; Sonmez’s lawyer had said she intends to appeal the decision.
Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed! pic.twitter.com/zs4dX4qprH
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) June 3, 2022
Last Friday, Weigel quickly removed the retweet and apologized, saying in a follow-up tweet, “I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke. I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm.”
Sonmez herself had been temporarily suspended by the paper in January 2020 after she posted a link on Twitter to a 2016 Daily Beast story with the headline, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession,” after Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
Meanwhile, Sonmez’s public castigation of Weigel prompted another Post reporter, Jose Del Real, to respond in a series of tweets Saturday, in which Del Real said in part, “Felicia, we all mess up from time to time. Engaging in repeated and targeted harassment of a colleague is neither a good look nor is it particularly effective.” He also wrote, “I hope you reconsider the cruelty you regularly unleash against colleagues.”
In response to Del Real, Sonmez wrote, “When women stand up for themselves, some people respond with even more vitriol… Objecting to sexism is not ‘clout chasing.’ It’s not ‘harassment.’ And it’s certainly not ‘cruelty.’” On Twitter, Sonmez also has posted multiple vicious sexist messages directed at her over the past several days over the controversy.
The public infighting on Twitter by the Post staffers prompted executive editor Sally Buzbee to send a memo Sunday that said in part, “We expect the staff to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online. We are a collegial and creative newsroom doing an astonishing amount of important and groundbreaking journalism.” Buzbee instructed Post staffers to raise any issues they have with colleagues with “leadership or human resources” and “we will address them promptly and firmly.”