The name “Sonmez” really didn’t mean much to me, so when the shitstorm over Felicia Sonmez’s compulsion to twit about an unproved rape allegation upon learning of Kobe Bryant’s death, I didn’t connect the dots. Now I know, and it makes a difference. This is the same person who “canceled,” as the popular word goes, or destroyed the life of, as I prefer to describe it, Jon Kaiman.
Kaiman’s name may not be much more of a household name than Sonmez’s, and that may well be why someone like Sonmez could so easily ruin his life. As Emily Yoffe put it:
Journalist Jonathan Kaiman is one of the least famous, least powerful men to be brought down by the #MeToo movement.
And as Emily Yoffe further explained, he didn’t deserve it. At the absolute minimum, he didn’t deserve to have his career, his life, destroyed for it. Not that Sonmez cared. Not that those who view the world through the #MeToo lens cared. It’s scorched earth or nothing, and if it happens to be wrong, false or absurdly disproportionate to the perceived “offense,” if offense it was, so what?
Sonmez tried to fight over her weight when she took on Kobe Bryant. Had she done so on Jezebel, she may well have gotten the reaction she sought. Yaaaass, Kween. Slay! But she did it in the open, on twitter, and while there were supporters, for whom the most important thing to be said about Kobe, the integral part of his story to a certain cohort, was the accusation of rape. Even the perpetually offended Jill Filipovic knew better than to go straight at him. Or to post her screed where it might be readily seen by people not of her ilk.
You know the and also, don’t you? That Kobe Bryant raped a woman? I know, I know, it was not proven in a court of law.
And then came the “BUT,” as if that wasn’t the only point of Filipovic’s transparent attempt to avoid what happened to Sonmez.
In the aftermath of Sonmez’s shoot and miss tarring of Bryant upon his, and his 13-year-old daughter’s, death, she was suspended. Not fired, and not suspended for the abysmal twit reflecting a delusional lack of discretion. It’s not that Kobe’s life should be sanitized, that the unproven rape accusation should never be mentioned. It’s whether the accusation was the foremost thing to note about Kobe. To Filipovic, kind of. To Sonmez, clearly.
Should Sonmez be “canceled” because of it, however, remains a question. There is a sense that she should get as good as she gave, and having destroyed Jon Kaiman’s life, she deserves no greater concern or consideration. Karma is a bitch, some might say, and indeed, it is.
But for the same reason it was wrong of Sonmez to go after Jon Kaiman, to reinvent and distort the claim against him in order to not just make a story out of nothing, but to make a story that had as its goal to destroy a person’s career, it’s wrong to believe that Sonmez’s career should be crushed because she went after Kobe.
So her perspective toward Kobe Bryant was skewed by her feelings about an unproven rape. Oh no, how dare this guy who just died in a tragic helicopter crash at 41, beloved by millions, escape being remembered for the things that Sonmez feels is most horrifying and awful. So she couldn’t exercise sufficient discretion to not make Kobe’s death all about her feelings of outrage. So what?
What this does is inform us where Sonmez is coming from, her perspective, her focus, her obsession. She has now made clear, where before she might have been taken as an honest broker in her presentation of a story as a journalist, a reporter for the Washington Post. At the time she wrote about Kaiman, she was looking for a job, and expressed concern.
People, of course, are entitled to tell their own stories. In telling theirs, Tucker and Sonmez each expressed their concerns about the effect on their own lives of coming forward: Tucker said that it was “embarrassing and frightening” to write about what happened, while Sonmez wrote that she “struggled with whether to go public,” in part because she was job hunting and worried she might “scare away” potential employers. But the professional lives of both women appear to be thriving. Tucker is in the class of 2020 at the University of Texas School of Law, and shortly after Sonmez released her letter about Kaiman, she was hired by The Washington Post.
Whether the WaPo remains of the view that Sonmez has the journalistic credibility to be on their payroll is entirely up to her employer. But demands that she be fired, even suspended, for a twit? That’s absurd.
Just as absurd as the destruction of Jon Kaiman.
Now that Sonmez has made her perspective clear, and now that Emily Yoffe has been proven (yet again) to be bold and brave enough to counter the prevailing mob ready to burn someone like Kaiman at the stake for nothing, it’s time to rehabilitate Kaiman, who just didn’t have the support of someone as well-known and beloved as Kobe to fend off the mob.