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Terminated PR Executive Apologizes For Tweet Making Light Of AIDS In Africa

Justine Sacco On Twitter

The Twitter account for former IAC PR executive Justine Sacco, showing the tweet that cost her her job. (Credit: Twitter)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York public relations executive has issued a lengthy apology, after she lost her job for a tweet that made light of AIDS in Africa and race.

Justine Sacco, who had been corporate communications director for IAC, issued the tweet from London on Friday afternoon.

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” the tweet said.

Sacco’s Twitter account had been deleted by Sunday evening, but was still available in cached form.

IAC, which had condemned the message, said on Saturday that Sacco and the company had “parted ways,” CBS News reported.

On Sunday, Sacco issued the following apology:

“Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet. There is an AIDS crisis taking place in this country, that we read about in America, but do not live with or face on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, it is terribly easy to be cavalier about an epidemic that one has never witnessed firsthand. For being insensitive to this crisis – which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly – and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.

“This is my father’s country, and I was born here. I cherish my ties to South Africa and my frequent visits, but I am in anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people here; my family, friends and fellow South Africans. I am very sorry for the pain I caused.”

The tweet quickly drew an online furor after it was first issued.

“I seriously hope you keep that joking demeanor while you’re in the unemployment office. You’re going to need it!” Twitter user “A Kid Named Purdy” tweeted in response.

“@JustineSacco is about to find out how real it is. Nobody in PR should be so silly,” tweeted “Spud Webb Swag.”

Thousands of other Twitter users also responded. Some called the message racist and insensitive, while others defended it as an unsuccessful yet forgivable attempt at humor, CBS News reported.

And many users wondered – some angrily, others gleefully – whether Sacco would still have her job after her flight landed, CBS News reported. As it turned out, she did not.

The company distanced itself from the message, CBS News reported.

“The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” the company said in a statement on Saturday. “We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question.”

“There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally,” the statement continued. “We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core.”

IAC operates more than a dozen websites, including the news website the Daily Beast, CollegeHumor, and dating websites such as Match.com and OKCupid, CBS News reported.

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