The Washington Post, the previously revered news agency that exposed the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of a president, is still widely respected within the Beltway, but has, in recent years, lost its way among many Americans. Though, what happened recently may be some of the worst that has plagued the Washington Post over its 144-year history.
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On June 16th, the Post was forced to respond to the controversial 2018 editorial written by actress Amber Heard which became the focus of the explosive defamation lawsuit launched against her by her former husband Johnny Depp.
The op-ed, published merely days before the release of her new film “Aquaman,” Heard alleged that she had been a victim of domestic violence which strongly implies that Depp was her abuser without naming him. But during the breathtaking six-week trial, it was revealed that the ACLU had written her editorial. Ultimately, a jury found that Heard’s piece against Depp was indeed defamatory.
While the verdict was widely seen as an indictment of Heard’s credibility, some critics pointed out that the Post also ought to be held accountable for publishing its defamatory editorial in the first place.
On June 16th, the Post published an article titled “Who won the Depp-Heard trial? Content creators that went all-in.”
The paragraph included a statement in parentheses, “Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy did not respond to requests for comment.”
Both Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy rebuffed Lorenz’s report claiming that she not only misinterpreted their coverage of the trial and their earnings, but that she did not contact them for comment in the first place.
In light of Lorenz’s and the Post’s public slamming, the Post sneakily edited its article removing the erroneous statement but failing to include an editor’s note.
Simultaneously, a different controversy was simmering between two journalists over a faded retweet.
Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez shared a screenshot of a tweet by YouTube host Cam Harless, who said, “All girls are bi. You just have to know if it’s polar or sexual.”
It was retweeted by fellow journalist David Weigel.
“Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!” Sonmez reacted.
The retweet was condemned by The Washington Post.
Weigel also deleted the retweet from his Twitter page and apologized, saying he “meant no harm.”
CNN announced on June 20th that Weigel had been suspended for a month without pay.
Critics slammed the Post for its harsh punishment of Weigel, calling the paper’s actions “completely insane.” But according to Puck News, “at least three previous instances in which his tweets had been flagged to H.R. for violating the Post’s social media policy” could have contributed to the suspension.
Notably, Weigel came to the defense of Sonmez in 2020 when she landed in hot water and was briefly suspended by the Post for tweets reigniting Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape accusation during breaking news of the superstar’s NBA helicopter crash while his body was still being recovered.
Sonmez drew no parallels, writing, “One of these was a tweet that violated the Post’s social media policy and promoted a sexist ‘joke.’ The other was not.”
Weigel’s public shaming of Sonmez prompted Post reporter Jose A. Del Real to respond.
The nasty spat prompted Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee to release a memo to staff urging them to “treat each other with respect and kindness,” which apparently went ignored as Sonmez continued her attacks.
External critics described tensions among Post staff as “so high school,” leading Substack writer Josh Barro to ask, “Are there any adults at The Washington Post?”
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