News & Politics

Simon Denyer Out at the Washington Post

Photograph by Evy Mages

Tokyo bureau chief Simon Denyer will leave the Washington Post, the publication’s foreign desk announced in a terse note Thursday. Denyer, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for the Post’s “2C” project, was reportedly the person referred to in a lawsuit by Post journalist Felicia Sonmez: This person “faced sexual misconduct allegations including sending an unsolicited photo of his underwear-covered crotch to a young woman,” the suit reads.

Sonmez’s lawsuit, which does not name the person, contrasts her assertion that she was banned from coverage of sexual-assault- or #MeToo-related articles with the consequences of this person’s alleged actions: “none of the reporter’s editors said his writing on the topic would present a ‘conflict of interest’ or questioned whether he was capable of objective reporting. He was given a prominent position, wrote more than a dozen stories that touched on these issues and continues to do so today,” it reads.

The Daily Beast reported last month that the Post investigated Denyer but “management ultimately determined no professional wrongdoing on Denyer’s part and issued a warning.” In a written statement to Washingtonian, Denyer said “My departure from the Washington Post was long planned at the end of my three year-posting. In fact, my time was extended for two months to cover the Tokyo Olympics. I have returned to the UK to take up a new job and for family reasons and to suggest otherwise is completely false. I have never sent a suggestive or otherwise improper photograph of myself to anyone.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee has replaced Denyer, the memo says.

The Washington Post has not responded to a request for comment about whether Denyer’s departure was related to the allegations. Sonmez’s attorney, Sundeep Hora, had no comment.

Memo:

Having wrapped up a three-year tour as Tokyo bureau chief, Simon Denyer has decided to leave The Post for a career change, with details to be announced soon.

This marks the end of an eventful 11-year run in which Simon served as bureau chief in New Delhi (2010-2013) and Beijing (2013-2018) before moving to Tokyo. While in Japan, he was part of The Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for the 2C project on climate change. He also shared an Overseas Press Club award for coverage of China’s system of censorship and surveillance, and he won two National Headliners Awards for reporting on Tibet and Japan’s whaling industry. He has spent much of the last 18 months chronicling the impact of coronavirus on Japan and its hosting of the Olympics.

Simon has handed over responsibilities as scheduled to Michelle Ye Hee Lee, our new Tokyo bureau chief. He and his family are moving back to their native England, where his daughter is beginning university this fall. We wish him well as he begins a new chapter.

Doug Eva Brian

This article has been updated to include a statement from Denyer. 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.