PR Exec Justine Sacco Fired Over AIDS Tweet

The Internet is always listening. And it was listening with open ears on Friday night when Justin Sacco, head of corporate communications for IAC, sent out a tweet to her some 500 followers. The ignorant 140 characters — “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” — would become known as the tweet heard around the world. It would take its equally ignorant PR exec scribe into worldwide headlines. It would also cost Ms. Sacco her cushy senior level position.

“The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” a statement released via IAC on Saturday (Dec. 21) read.
“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.”

Justine Sacco’s Christmas isn’t going to be merry. Expect her to take the stand on multiple media channels to defend herself, or perhaps apologize for the tweet she sent out in London en route to South Africa. With a 12-hour flight ahead of her, Sacco couldn’t defend herself as the tweet picked up steam for its racial slur. It was later deleted, as was Sacco’s Twitter account.

As we were saying before, be careful what you tweet. The Internet is always listening.


The South-African born Sacco issued an apology for her tweet. It can be read in full below:

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.”