A Washington Post journalist has been suspended by the newspaper after she tweeted a link to a years-old story about the Kobe Bryant rape case just hours after the basketball legend and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash.

Felicia Sonmez, who covers national politics for the Post, took to Twitter shortly after the world learned of Bryant's death along with eight others aboard his private helicopter which crashed outside of Los Angeles.

Sonmez tweeted a link to a three-year-old article on The Daily Beast.

"Kobe Bryant's Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser's Story, and the Half-Confession," she wrote, quoting the article's headline.

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The story, originally published in April 2016 just before Bryant's final NBA game, revisited his 2003 arrest for the alleged sexual assault of a 19-year-old hotel worker. The case was dropped in 2004 before going to trial and a civil case was settled out of court.

Sonmez's tweet drew widespread criticism. "You're a terrible person," wrote author Mike Cernovich. "What kind of person just decides to post this now," said Daily Wire contributor Harry Khachatrian.

Comedian Bridget Phetasy wrote, "This is gross. A woman lost her husband and child today. Kids lost their father and sister. Children all over the world lost their hero. People are grieving. Maybe give it a day before you trample on the memories of the deceased."

Sonmez later defended her tweet, urging the "10,000 people" who had commented and emailed her with "abuse and death threats" to "please take a moment and read the story". "Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling," she wrote.

Fan gather around make shift memorials as they mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant in front of La Live across from Staples Center. Photo / AP
Fan gather around make shift memorials as they mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant in front of La Live across from Staples Center. Photo / AP

"That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn't even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases."

Bryan Stange, right, stands with his family holding a sign near the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant. Photo / AP
Bryan Stange, right, stands with his family holding a sign near the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant. Photo / AP
Thousands of fans mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant with make shift memorials in front of La Live across from Staples Center. Photo / AP
Thousands of fans mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant with make shift memorials in front of La Live across from Staples Center. Photo / AP

Some on Twitter drew comparison to The Washington Post's coverage of the deaths of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iranian general Qassim Soleimani, who were respectively described by the newspaper as an "austere religious scholar" and a "revered military leader".