The Washington Post has suspended reporter David Weigel for one month without pay for retweeting a sexist joke, two people familiar with the matter told CNN on Monday.
Weigel did not respond to a request for comment, but an out-of-office reply from his Post email address said that he would return to work on July 5. Weigel apologized publicly last week for the retweet, saying he “did not mean to cause any harm.”
A spokesperson for The Post declined to comment, citing a need for privacy regarding personnel matters.
Weigel’s retweet was spotlighted publicly by his colleague, Felicia Sonmez, who recently had a discrimination lawsuit against the paper dismissed, a decision her attorney has said she plans to appeal.
Sonmez sarcastically wrote on Twitter on Friday that it is “fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed.” She attached a screen grab showing Weigel’s retweet, which was of a tweet from YouTuber Cam Harless, who joked, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”
Sonmez, according to messages obtained by CNN, also confronted Weigel in an internal company Slack channel. She tagged him and wrote, “I’m sorry but what is this?”
Sonmez added in the Slack channel that the retweet sent “a confusing message about what the Post’s values are.”
Others on Friday joined the discussion in the Slack channel, prompting national editor Matea Gold to write, “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.”
The Post’s chief spokesperson, Kris Coratti, also issued a statement to the press that said, “Editors have made clear to the staff that the tweet was reprehensible and demeaning language or actions like that will not be tolerated.”
But the public and private admonishment of Weigel’s retweet has failed to quell tension inside The Post.
Jose A. Del Real, a reporter at The Post, responded on Twitter Saturday to Sonmez’s initial tweet. Del Real said Weigel’s tweet was “terrible and unacceptable.”
“But,” he added, “rallying the internet to attack him for a mistake he made doesn’t actually solve anything. We all mess up in some way or another. There is such a thing as challenging with compassion.”
Sonmez responded, saying that “calling out sexism isn’t ‘cruelty,’” but something that is “absolutely necessary.”
Sonmez and Del Real then proceeded to engage in a back and forth over Twitter on Saturday, with Del Real ultimately moving to temporarily deactivate his account.
Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of The Post, tried on Sunday morning to rein in the newsroom by sending a memo that reminded staffers “to treat each other with respect and kindness both in the newsroom and online.”
“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.”
However, the attempt by leadership to squash the controversy failed again.
Sonmez on Sunday afternoon said on Twitter that Buzbee’s note had provided “fodder for *more* harassment” against her.
Del Real reactivated his account and posted a statement on Sunday afternoon, saying he had faced “an unrelenting series of attacks intended to tarnish my professional and personal reputation” after tweeting at Sonmez.
Sonmez proceeded to call Del Real out for blocking her, and said that instead of apologizing he had instead made a series of “false accusations and mischaracterizations” in his statement. Sonmez said, for instance, that she saw “no comments” intending to harm Del Real’s reputation.
Sonmez on Sunday evening then tagged Buzbee and Gold on Twitter and said she had reached out to them to discuss the matter, but that she hadn’t heard back.
“Retaliation against a colleague for speaking out against sexism is never okay,” Sonmez wrote. “I hope Washington Post leaders treat this as the serious issue that it is.”
By Monday morning, tension at The Post was still high.
Video technician Breanna Muir responded to Buzbee’s all-staff email, applauding Sonmez for “speaking out against harassment, discrimination and sexism.”
Muir attached a tweet showing that Micah Gelman, the head of The Post’s video team, had once misidentified her as “Breanna Taylor.”
“If the Washington Post is committed to an inclusive and respectful environment free of harassment, discrimination or bias of any sort, then can someone please help me understand Micah Gelman and David Weigel’s tweets/rts?” Muir asked.
“These tweets/rts not only hurt women in our newsroom but make it extremely difficult to do our best work,” Muir added. “Ultimately, it creates a toxic work environment.”
Gelman previously did apologize to Muir for misidentifying her. When the incident happened in February, he wrote on Twitter, “In a long thread last night thanking my staff for working exhaustive hours, I inadvertently misidentified Breanna Muir. I reached out to her to apologize and do so here now. We are all working extremely long hours and while this was not intentional, it should not have happened.”
Coratti also released a statement at the time noting Gelman “apologized both publicly and privately for his mistake.”
“However, we do not take the impact of that error lightly and regret the emotional toll it has had on Breanna,” Coratti added. “We have also reached out to her and are committed to fostering an inclusive environment throughout the newsroom.”