Justine Sacco Apologizes for Offensive Aids in Africa Tweet

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 22 2013 10:53 AM

Justine Sacco: “I Am in Anguish” Over Offensive AIDS-in-Africa Tweet

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Maybe the hashtag should now be #JustineHasApologized. Justine Sacco, the former public relations executive who sparked a huge controversy Friday in the tiny Twitter microcosm, has apologized for an offensive tweet about AIDS in Africa, saying she was “ashamed” of what she wrote. In case you were offline that day and somehow missed the “tweet heard ‘round the world,” Sacco, an executive at IAC, the company headed by Barry Diller that operates sites like Match.com and Daily Beast, wrote a very classy tweet Friday: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

On Sunday, Sacco apologized. "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,” read the statement, according to Variety. “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.” The statement goes on: “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.”

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The apology came a day after IAC said it had fired Sacco.  "There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," InterActive Corp said in a statement, according to ABC News. "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."

What appears to be Justine Sacco’s Facebook profile is now filled with a quick succession of messages from Sacco, who appears to be very distraught and in apparent disbelief at how one message in a social network has led her life to unravel. “The incident,” notes CNN, “was a glaring reminder that every word uttered on the Internet can be heard by seemingly everyone on the Internet, sometimes with serious consequences.”

Update Monday, Dec. 23: An earlier version of this post included a screengrab of the Facebook profile that appeared to be Sacco's. We have been unable to confirm the authenticity of that page, which has since been de-activated, so we've removed the image from this post.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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