Jeff Bezos’ New Washington Post Editor Is Out Before He Even Starts

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos by Getty / LinkedIn
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos by Getty / LinkedIn

The man who was supposed to become the new editor of The Washington Post has apparently “decided” that maybe it’s not such a great idea after all.

“It is with regret that I share with you that Robert Winnett has withdrawn from the position of Editor at The Washington Post,” the paper’s embattled CEO and publisher, Will Lewis, told staffers in an email obtained by The Daily Beast. “Rob has my greatest respect and is an incredibly talented editor and journalist.”

It’s unclear if this is a fresh headache for Lewis or part of an operation to stem the tide of vitriol headed his way.

Lewis’ announcement came nearly an hour after the Telegraph told its staff that Winnett, whose appointment to the top Post editorial job led to a firestorm of controversy, had chosen to stick around at his old paper. “I’m pleased to report that Rob Winnett has decided to stay with us,” Chris Evans, the editor of the Telegraph, told the newsroom in an email Friday.

WaPo’s Next Editor, an Undercover Reporter and Stolen Secrets

Without mentioning the Post by name, Evans added: “As you all know, he’s a talented chap and their loss is our gain.”

Lewis said the Post would “immediately” launch a head-hunting mission to find a new executive editor for the core newsroom, including the use of a recruiting firm. He promised the process would be “timely but thorough,” one the paper appeared not to take when it announced Winnett’s appointment earlier this month.

Until then, Lewis said, executive editor Matt Murray would continue to lead the Post until after the 2024 election.

The Post did not have an immediate comment. The Post Guild, the paper’s staff union, said in a statement it would figure out its next steps as a unit.

“We’re incredibly proud of the work our colleagues did to unearth even more consequential and troubling information on the journalistic practices of Robert Winnett,” it said.

Will Lewis wears a pair of $1,100 calfskin-and-suede Zegna sneakers while speaking to staff at The Washington Post.

Will Lewis wears a pair of $1,100 calfskin-and-suede Zegna sneakers while speaking to staff at The Washington Post.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty

Lewis, who joined the Post in January, mentored Winnett during their time together at The Sunday Times in London and chose him to take over the top editorial job at the Post once the November presidential election is over. But the hiring of Winnett—who earned the nickname “rat boy” for his tenacious pursuit of scoops—has come under intense scrutiny, particularly after the early June ouster of executive editor Sally Buzbee.

Winnett’s 18-day tenure as incoming executive editor is equivalent to 1.63 Scaramuccis, the unit of measurement coined for Anthony Scaramucci’s 11 days as President Donald Trump’s communications director. Winnett was not actually employed, so this may be the first negative Scaramucci since the unit’s inauguration.

The Post itself was the first U.S. outlet to report the news, in a story by its own media desk. Managing editor Krissah Thompson and deputy managing editor Monica Norton signed off on a push alert for the story, according to a source.

Winnett’s sudden exit concluded a three-week saga of story after story that outlined Lewis’ and Winnett’s reporting tactics abroad, scoops that made his appointment as executive editor untenable for Post staffers.

WaPo’s Next Editor, an Undercover Reporter and Stolen Secrets

After The Daily Beast reported on Winnett’s use of undercover operatives and payments to sources for information, The New York Times reported that Lewis and Winnett worked on stories based on stolen documents. The Washington Post itself followed up on the bombshell report, tying Winnett to a self-described “thief” who tried to help the Telegraph reporter obtain an early copy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s memoir.

Lewis never commented on any of the reports about his chosen leader, instead opting for late-Friday memos to the newsroom that outlined his thoughts and vague visions for his planned “Third Newsroom.” Post owner Jeff Bezos tried to assuage some concerns within the newsroom, offering mild support to his CEO in a note to senior staff, but Lewis’ silence did little to quell many Post staffers’ outrage, and some wondered whether Winnett would join the paper at all.

It’s unclear how the exit will reshuffle Lewis’ “Third Newsroom” vision, who will run the paper following the 2024 election, or what it means for Lewis’ future at the Post. The most-liked comment on the Post’s story, however, offered a suggestion.

“Public pressure still works,” the commenter wrote. “Now do Lewis.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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