PR exec's racist tweet sparks online fury

NEED TO KNOW
  • Justine Sacco tweets about AIDS in Africa before flying to country; Company says it has 'parted ways' with Sacco
  • IAC spokesman: 'No excuse for the hateful statements'
  • #HasJustineLandedYet has been trending ever since initial tweet
PR exec's racist tweet sparks online fury

If you see all your friends using the #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag, you're probably wondering who the heck Justine is and why she's important enough to be talked about by so many people. That is, unless you clicked the hashtag and found this gem of a status update.

It read, "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

Justine Sacco fired that off from London around 10:19 a.m. Friday right before she boarded an international flight. Sacco must have shut her phone off just in time, because as soon as people started to get wind of the event, they started sharing it like crazy and digging up other info on Sacco.

Her Twitter account, which was deleted early Saturday morning, contained other not-so-PC tweets, although none of them matched up to the audacity of the Africa one.

Sacco, 30, was employed with New York-based media and internet company IAC/InterActiveCorp as a Senior Director of Corporate Communications, who made a statement Saturday morning after finding out about the tweet.

"This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.”

Her name was removed from the company's staff list on its website early Saturday. Later in the afternoon, IAC spokesman Ryan Trostle issued a statement confirming Sacco's termination.

"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."

HLN made repeated calls to Sacco, who has landed in Africa, but they went unanswered.

Perhaps more interesting than Sacco's unfortunate lack of judgment is the conversation it started on social media.  Aid for Africa purchased justinesacco.com, which redirects to its website, which is very smart (and bonus points for lightning response time). And the hashtag #GoingToAfrica was started to attract attention to the AIDS relief effort.

By sending such an insensitive tweet, Sacco has accidentally pointed people's attention towards a dire situation that needs help -- so at the end of the day, there is some good to come out of the bad.

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