Felicia Sommez is a reporter for the Washington Post — part of the Post’s stable of lefty journalists. She has contributed to some of the dishonest anti-Trump stories we’ve critiqued on Power Line. See here, for example.
Sommez has sued the Post and some of its editors for alleged discrimination and retaliation. Her core complaint is that she has not been assigned to cover stories about alleged sexual assault and harassment, including the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
A few years ago, Sommez herself alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times while she was drunk. Later, she spoke publicly about her experience as a “survivor” of sexual assault.
As a result of her experience and her advocacy, the Post apparently barred her from covering such allegations by others. The Post’s theory, it seems, was that Sommez’s experience might affect her reporting or at least create the perception that her reporting was slanted.
Sommez says that as a result of missing out on these assignments, including the Kavanaugh story, her career has been harmed. In addition, she claims to have been “humiliated” to the point of suffering emotional distress and requiring therapy.
I recognize that employment law litigation has become more bizarre since I stopped practicing almost a decade ago. But this suit seems particularly odd.
Sommez’s primary cause of action reportedly is sex discrimination. But Sommez wasn’t denied assignments because of her gender, she was denied them because the Post thought that her experience of being sexually assaulted and perhaps her public statements about the experience made her less than an optimal reporter to handle these assignments. There is no reason to believe that a similarly situated male would have been treated differently by the Post.
I doubt the Post was worried that Sommez would be less fair to Kavanaugh than any of the partisan leftists to whom it assigned to the story. I don’t think the Post worried about fairness for Kavanaugh at all.
But given the inevitable anti-Kavanaugh slant its coverage would take, it was reasonable for the Post to hand the story to reporters who couldn’t be accused of bias based on their personal history. That seems like a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for not assigning a matter to Sommez, at least in the case of the Kavanaugh story.
Obviously, the Post won’t defend its decision in quite these terms. It will, I assume, defend its decision as a reasonable attempt to be as journalistically ethical as possible. In theory, that seems like a good defense, as well.
What of the claim that being denied a assignments has driven Sommez into therapy and even caused her to develop severe jaw pain from grinding her teeth due to stress? I suppose these things are possible in the, um, messed up world of big time journalism.
Which side to root for in this litigation — the leftist organ or its, um, overwrought reporter? The Post may have the better case, but the reporter is clearly more sympathetic and definitely more harmless.