Reporters in Online Fight After Male Reporter Retweets Politically Incorrect Joke

The Washington Post is in turmoil this weekend over twin newsroom spats involving several star reporters: Taylor Lorenz over false reporting in an article and Dave Weigel and Felicia Sonmez over a joke; a fourth Post reporter, Jose Del Real, self-immolated himself online after tangling with Sonmez over her response to the joke.

Lorenz reported this week on social media influencers covering the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial just concluded in Fairfax, Virginia. Lorenz was called out by two subjects for falsely reporting she reached out them for comment before publication. The Post then engaged in several efforts to clean up Lorenz’s sloppy reporting by first doing a stealth edit (removing the false passage without explanation) and then issuing several corrections. Lorenz took to social media to blame her editors. (Part Two on the Lorenz controversy will be posted later today.)

While this was playing out Weigel drew criticism for retweeting a politically incorrect joke, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.” Weigel deleted his retweet and apologized after being attacked online by fellow Post reporter Felicia Sonmez, who has given the Post heartburn over a Kobe Bryant rape tweet upon his death and then suing the Post for discrimination. in a case she lost this year.. Over a decade ago Weigel’s private comments about conservatives on the Journolist listserve got him in hot water at the Post.

Sonmez tweeted Friday, “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!”

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And, “Not sure whether an environment where employees feel free to retweet sexist jokes is one where all of us can “do our best work.”

And more on Saturday, “Imagining a world where news organizations even enforce their social media policies, rather than allowing certain reporters to feel entitled to tweet racist/sexist things without fear of repercussions, thus turning their colleagues into targets of online hate when they object .”

Weigel deleted his retweet Friday afternoon and has not commented further on the issue, “I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke. I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm.”

Weigel continued tweeting about the news Friday but has not tweeted over the weekend.

CNN’s Oliver D’Arcy reported on Post management’s response, “WaPo chief spox @kriscoratti issues statement on @daveweigel’s retweet of a sexist joke, which he has since apologized for: “Editors have made clear to the staff that the tweet was reprehensible and demeaning language or actions like that will not be tolerated.” And, “In Slack, a conversation took place about the retweet. @MateaGold wrote to staffers in the 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.”

Over the weekend, Post reporter Jose Del Real criticized Sonmez, but ended up deleting his Twitter account after a backlash. Sonmez, piled on Del Real on Sunday, “When women stand up for themselves, some people respond with even more vitriol. Last night, a Post colleague publicly attacked me for calling out another colleague’s sexist tweet. He first hid any replies objecting to his attacks, and now seems to have deleted his account. 1/2 Objecting to sexism is not “clout chasing.” It’s not “harassment.” And it’s certainly not “cruelty.” Does the Washington Post agree? @SallyBuzbee @mateagold Here is a personal thread I wrote last night about why speaking out matters to me and other women. 2/2”

The Daily Beast reported Sunday that Post Executive Editor Sally Buzbee addressed the controversy (excerpt):

“We expect the staff to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online,” she wrote in the all-newsroom email obtained by The Daily Beast. “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. The Washington Post is committed to an inclusive and respectful environment free of harassment, discrimination or bias of any sort,” Buzbee added. “When issues arise, please raise them with leadership or human resources and we will address them promptly and firmly.”

Last year the Post promoted a Black woman, Karen Attiah, who tweeted a racist threat to white women that said, “white women are lucky that we are just calling them ‘Karen’s.’ And not calling for revenge.”

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