Updated Sunday, 11:34 a.m.:
“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,” Sacco said in the statement. “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.”
Updated Saturday, 5:50 p.m.:
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IAC has parted ways with Justine Sacco, but is also asking for restraint from those continuing to vilify her on social media. A representative from the company emailed the following statement:
“The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC. 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. 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.”
Updated Saturday, 12:50 a.m.:
Sacco’s Twitter account has apparently been deleted. Sacco has not yet commented. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet rose to the top of Twitter’s trending topics on Friday.
Updated Friday, 5:50
Ace of Spades HQ responded via tweet, saying that its tweet about wanting to get Sacco fired (see below) was sarcasm and that the intent was to “scold those whose lives only have meaning when they get someone fired.”
Updated Friday, 4:25 p.m.:
A representative from IAC emailed the following comment regarding the tweet:
“This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC. Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”
An offensive tweet sent from the Twitter account of a communications executive at Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ:IACI) is sparking outrage.
“Going to Africa,” the tweet said. “Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Sent at 10:19 a.m., the tweet spread around Twitter Friday afternoon and was picked up by gossip blogs, including Gawker’s Valleywag. Fellow tweeters are not amused, with many calling it racist and homophobic.
â€” Tieria Erde (@Remi_WR) December 20, 2013
@JustineSacco I'm absolutely shocked! By far, the worst and most inappropriate tweet I've read in a very long time. IAC won't be too happy
â€” DoYouNeedToKnow (@DoUNeedToKnow1) December 20, 2013
â€” Scott Wooledge (@Clarknt67) December 20, 2013
Sacco did not immediately respond to a request for comment, so at this point it’s unclear if she herself sent the tweet or someone else did.
Recent posts from her Twitter account suggest she has been traveling. On Thursday, she apparently castigated a “weird German dude” in first class who had body odor. Earlier on Friday, she tweeted that she was back in London among the “cucumber sandwiches” and “bad teeth.” The offensive AIDS comment was sent from London, according to the location icon. Depending on where in Africa Sacco is heading, she could be in the air for a while.
IAC is the parent company of popular websites such as OKCupid and Dictionary.com. According to the corporate website, Sacco is the director of corporate communications for the company. She had previously worked in the PR department for WWE Corp. The irony of a seasoned PR pro at a major Internet company tweeting something so blatantly offensive was not lost on commentators.
Is that tweet real? You work in PR. You shld know better RT @JustineSacco "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"
â€” David Cohn (@Digidave) December 20, 2013
IBTimes recently published a listicle of the “Worst Tweets of 2013,” which includes tweets from several high-ranking executives or social media professionals who lost their jobs or were reprimanded after making ill-conceived comments on Twitter. If reactions to the Sacco tweet are any indication, that list might need to be updated.
If I can just get @justinesacco fired my day will have been well-spent!!!
â€” SquatchPride69 (@AceofSpadesHQ) December 20, 2013
.@JustineSacco Let me know how fast it takes your white ass to get fired.
â€” Sophomore Matt (@krott16) December 20, 2013
â€” Steve. (@StevenLDN) December 20, 2013
Ironically, this tweet from January may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This story is still developing. Updates will be posted here if and when Sacco responds to the controversy.