Sacked PR chief Justine Sacco says sorry for Aids tweet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 December, 2013, 1:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 4:13am


A sacked former PR executive apologised yesterday after causing a storm with a controversial tweet that mocked Aids victims.

Justine Sacco said she was sorry for the "pain" her comments had caused. Her original tweet read: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get Aids. Just kidding. I'm white!" Sacco, who was then the communications director for the internet company InterActive Corp (IAC) - the owner of such popular websites as,, OkCupid and Vimeo - posted the remark as she boarded a long flight to South Africa.

She had less than 200 followers, US media reported, but the message was soon forwarded to a staffer at the website BuzzFeed, who retweeted it and ensured the message was widely seen. "Justine Sacco should get fired..." and "Total LOSER!" were some of the milder reactions posted on Twitter, following Sacco's tweet.

Sacco was unable to respond for hours, as she was on the plane with no access to the internet.

Upon landing in South Africa, Sacco deleted the message and her Twitter account with no comment. But yesterday, she issued a statement saying: "Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologise to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet."

She added: "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."

After the controversy erupted, Sacco's employer issued a statement announcing that they had "parted ways" with her.

But not everyone joined in the kick-her-when-she's-down response. "What happen to Justine Sacco last night could only be enjoyed by those diseased by their own self-righteousness," read one Twitter message.

"Sticks and stones may break bones, but words on Twitter will always hurt you," read another cautionary tweet.

The moral of the story, as several Twitter writers noted, was to think about what you've written before posting it.