A week of disgrace for the Washington Post

It hasn't been an easy week for the Washington Post.  The disgraced paper was in the news for the wrong reasons on three separate occasions.

Let's start with the first occasion: back in 2018, the WaPo published an article by actress Amber Heard where she claimed to be a victim of sexual violence and domestic abuse.  The implication was that her then-husband, actor Johnny Depp, was the perpetrator.

Any responsible news organization would have confirmed the allegations with Depp prior to publication.  The WaPo did no such thing; it published Heard's version.

Depp sued Heard for defamation over the op-ed.  After a trial that drew considerable public interest, the jury found that claims made in Heard's op-ed were false, defamed Depp, and were made with malice.  They awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

Surprisingly, Depp didn't sue the WaPo for allowing the piece to be published. 

Now let's move onto the second occasion: Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel was in the spotlight for retweeting a "sexist joke": "every girl is bi.  You just have to figure out if it's polar or sexual."

The line is neither funny nor insightful — it is juvenile and immature.

But Weigel's WaPo colleague, national political reporter Felicia Sonmez was incensed by it. 

Sonmez tweeted that it was "[f]antastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!" with a screenshot of Weigel's retweet.

Sonmez and Weigel shared a byline in the WaPo in late April.  She obviously knows him personally.  She could have privately reached out to him and expressed her displeasure.  Instead, she chose to attack him in public.

It was similar to how she treated another colleague, Los Angeles Times Beijing bureau chief Jonathan Kaiman, in 2018, with very old #MeToo accusations, which ruined his career and made him unemployable, according to a 2019 account in Reason magazine, leading to her career at the Washington Post.

Weigel withdrew his "offensive retweet" and issued an apology.

But bullies such as Sonmez are only emboldened by apologies.  She has a history of it.

We know that victimhood can earn you fame and wealth in current times.  Sonmez probably realized this and proceeded to add fuel to the fire on social media. 

Sonmez also tweeted images of another WaPo colleague, Jose Del Real, who accepted that Weigel's retweet was "terrible and unacceptable" but rightly urged her to accept Weigel's apology instead of "rallying the internet to attack him for a mistake he made," which "doesn't actually solve anything." 

Sonmez claimed to be attacked by Del Real and compared Weigel's tweet to racism and prejudice against LGBT+ people.

This prompted Del Real to reveal he is both gay and Mexican — i.e., twice the victim as Sonmez.

Sonmez realized she couldn't go any farther and claimed that her tweet "wasn't directed" at Del Real.

Days later, Sonmez retweeted many who supported her and shared screenshots of some who abused her.

She even tweeted an image of the famous Wiesel quote, effectively comparing herself with the victims of Nazi Germany for a "joke" that wasn't even directed at her.

Finally, WaPo executive editor Sally Buzbee had to "come over there" like a harried mom with squabbling kids, ordering them to play nice together.  She sent a memo to her colleagues urging them to treat each other with respect and kindness.

But Sonmez's tirade on social media continues.

Now for the third occasion: Taylor Lorenz, WaPo "internet culture" columnist, claimed in her story about YouTube channels that thrived during the Depp-Heard trial that she had reached out for comment to two YouTubers, "LegalBytes" host Alyte Mazeika and an anonymous user named "ThatUmbrellaGuy."  She also suggested that Depp's representative was in contact with some internet influencers, implying that this was a coordinated effort.

Both Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy called out Lorenz on Twitter and said she never attempted to seek comment from them prior to publishing.

After Lorenz was exposed for her baseless claim, The Post issued a corrigendum, stating, "A previous version of this story inaccurately attributed to [Depp representative] Adam Waldman a quote describing how he contacted some Internet influencers.  That quote has been removed.  The story has also been amended to note The Post's attempts to reach Alyte Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy for comment.  Previous versions omitted or inaccurately described these attempts."

Lorenz is pretty famous already for her low journalistic standards.  Back in April, the WaPo carried an op-ed by Lorenz about the Twitter account Libs of TikTok where she revealed the identity of the account owner and her address.  Lorenz also gratuitously stated that the owner was an Orthodox Jew, causing some to speculate if it was an antisemitic dog whistle.

In the past, Lorenz had falsely claimed to have been "relentlessly" harassed by someone whom she publicly identified as an editor for Drudge Report.  That prompted some cleanup on Aisle Taylor from the Post, too.

When she worked for the New York Times, Lorenz falsely claimed on Twitter that the Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen had called her "r-slur" during a conversation on the audio-driven social media app Clubhouse about Redditors' recent splash.

Beyond Lorenz, the Washington Post has always had a distant relationship with facts.  It was a leading proponent of the Russia collusion hoax, for which it was awarded the Pulitzer by a jury that included its own associate editor, Carlos Lozada.

The WaPo also smeared the Covington teen Nick Sandmann, alleging that he had displayed bigotry toward Native American elder Nathan Phillips.  Sandmann then filed a $250M defamation lawsuit against the WaPo, which the disgraced paper was compelled to settle.

The WaPo isn't always mean; it has displayed compassion on rare occasions.  When ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed after President Trump issued an order, the WaPo described him as an "austere religious scholar" who "maintained a canny pragmatism" and added that "acquaintances would remember him as a shy, near-sighted youth who liked soccer but preferred to spend his free time at the local mosque."

The paper's record is disgraceful, yet do not expect any course correction on its part.

The self-righteous never see their own mistakes.

They will still maintain that Amber Heard is the victim and that the "sexist" jury was wrong.  They will insist that Felicia Sonmez was right to create a firestorm over a silly joke.  They will also contend that despite being a serial offender, Taylor Lorenz's mistakes were purely inadvertent.  They may even insist that Trump colluded with Putin to win the 2016 elections, but, evil genius that he is, he managed to evade Special Counsel Mueller's watchful eyes.

They do not need to be factual.  They have also developed a business model where fanatical subscribers, including Washington insiders, read their propaganda to have their biases confirmed and hate affirmed.

They exist to appease their subscribers who fund their enterprise founded on falsehoods.  These subscribers are like addicts looking to get high from their latest dose of hate against Trump, the GOP, conservatives, and anyone who doesn't subscribe to their worldview.  To keep its subscribers "high," the WaPo is devolving into more outrageousness and toxicity every day.

Despite its ignominious record, its stories still lead the news cycle.  The WaPo has also built an ecosystem where it wins prestigious journalistic prizes after having its personnel as the jury.

This week, the paper proved that it is not only rotten in output — i.e., its content — but also rotten within, with its staff members squabbling in public for cheap publicity.

The motto of the WaPo is "democracy dies in darkness." 

What has died in broad daylight is its credibility and reputation.

Image: Daniel X. O'Neil, via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 2.0.

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