Justine Sacco's In-Flight Racism Turns Twitter Into Judge, Jury, and Executioner

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UPDATE: Not surprisingly, IAC has fired Sacco. She also released the following statement, 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," 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."


Hit the next page to read up on the full saga of consequences after PR executive Justine Sacco posted the above Tweet.
Originally published on December 21: First, the Duck Dynasty fiasco, now this. Why do media figures wait until the holidays to show their true, horrifying colors? Yesterday, PR executive Justine Sacco settled into a first-class seat aboard a 12 hour flight to South Africa and logged on Twitter. What followed will go down as a staggering social media milestone — the unchartered consequences of spewing your personal bigotries in real time, unmonitored. Sacco tweeted: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" After spilling that bile into the ether, she took off on a soon-to-be-infamous, international flight, hilariously unaware of the shitstorm coming her way.

Did Sacco think her wildly prejudiced tweet would go unnoticed? As the PR director of IAC, the parent company to Vimeo, OKCupid, and other seismic brands, it seems highly unlikely. In any case, while Sacco checked out in her (allegedly pharmaceutically-enhanced) in-flight slumber, the backlash ensued. Within hours, over 3,000 people retweeted the offending post, replete with a #HasJustineLandedYet hashtag and memes. Inflight Internet provider Gogo even got in on the action, tweeting: "Next time you plan to tweet something stupid before you take off, make sure you are getting on a @Gogo flight! CC: @JustineSacco."

By the time Sacco landed in Cape Town, she was a bona fide target of curiosity. One local resident, Zac R., actually went to the Cape Town International airport to document Sacco's impending public shame, and even spoke to her father, who was not exactly pleased with his daughter: "Justine's dad isn't (outwardly) racist. He stopped to have a chat with me. 'She better know she'll be paying for this!'" he said, quoting the father. Papa Sacco also mentioned that he raised her in the U.S., not South Africa, because of race issues. "Oh, the irony!" Zac tweeted. Eventually, Sacco appeared in the terminal, shielding herself with sunglasses. By then, she'd already deleted her infamous tweet, along with her Twitter account, but the deed was already done, judged, and even apologized for — by her employer, IAC.

At press time, Sacco's employer IAC had already deleted her bio and contact details. The company stated that "appropriate action" was being taken, which probably means that karma is being served, big time. Whatever happens now, one thing is clear: Sacco has impelled an intriguing and far broader discourse about the nature of digital misbehavior and its real-world consequences. Think before you tweet, people.