Sexist Joke Leads to Staff Turmoil at Washington Post

Journalist Dave Weigel has been suspended for a retweet, and colleagues are now fighting about it all
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
Sexist Joke Leads to Staff Turmoil at Washington Post
People walk by One Franklin Square, home of the "Washington Post," on Feb. 21, 2019, in Washington, DC.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

A blowup among staffers at the Washington Post has ended up going very public, leading to apparent disciplinary measures for journalist Dave Weigel. Sources tell CNN Business that Weigel has been suspended for a month without pay after he retweeted a sexist joke from YouTuber Cam Harless, who Variety notes calls himself a "well-respected s---poster" in his Twitter bio. The joke: "Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it's polar or sexual." One of Weigel's colleagues, political reporter Felicia Sonmez, then took a screenshot of Weigel's retweet and posted it on Twitter, adding, "Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!" CNN reports that Sonmez also went after Weigel in an internal Slack channel, noting that his retweet sent "a confusing message about what the Post's values are."

After others jumped into the conversation on Slack, national editor Matea Gold piped up that "the Post is committed to maintaining a respectful workplace for everyone. We do not tolerate demeaning language or actions." A Post spokesperson also called the joke "reprehensible and demeaning." Meanwhile, yet another Post reporter, Jose A. Del Real, then took Sonmez to task, noting that Weigel's retweet was "terrible," but that Sonmez shouldn't have attacked him online. This led to a tense back-and-forth between Sonmez and Del Real over the weekend, which in turn prompted Sally Buzbee, the paper's executive editor, to send a memo to staff Sunday imploring everyone "to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online." The reported suspension also set off a debate on Twitter on whether Weigel's suspension was justified or excessive.

Weigel and the Post haven't commented on Weigel's reported suspension, but when CNN tried to contact Weigel, his Post email's out-of-office message said he'd be out until July 5. Sonmez has had past dust-ups with the Post, including when she was suspended for tweeting about a 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant shortly after his January 2020 death; that suspension was eventually reversed after hundreds of Post colleagues complained. Then, in 2021, Sonmez sued her employer, alleging it had kept her off of stories involving sexual misconduct—including reporting on Christine Blasey Ford's accusations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—because Sonmez had publicly claimed she herself was a victim of sexual assault. In March, her suit was dismissed by a judge, though she plans to appeal. (More Washington Post stories.)

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