Cape Town - Justine Sacco left London a New York PR executive. She arrived in Cape Town hours later to find she had been the subject of a twitter furore - and that she had lost her job.
Now Justine Sacco has apologised unreservedly for a racist tweet in which she said she would not get Aids in South Africa because she is white.
Sacco told the Cape Argus: “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.”
The tweet that sparked outrage was fired off by Sacco as she left Heathrow for Cape Town: “Going to Africa, hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
The hashtag “#HasJustineLandedYet” was trending on Twitter as people tracked her flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Cape Town International Airport on Friday. Sacco, who was head of public relations for InterActiveCorp (IAC), was fired.
IAC, which owns match.com among others, condemned the tweet and said on Saturday that Sacco and the company had “parted ways”. “There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally,” said IAC.
In Sacco’s statement she apologised for being insensitive.
“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 first hand. 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.”
Sacco would not confirm that her father is Joburg-based billionaire, Desmond Sacco, who is listed 20th on the Forbes List of Africa’s richest.
By Sunday, the hashtag was still trending with others tweeting that they hoped the tweet was fake.
In one tweet that may or may not have been from Sacco, she said she made a mistake and that it was “just for laughs”. Other tweets included:
* @Amwesd tweeted: “What de hell did she smoke? Sure it wasn’t marijuana!!!”
* @Just_K0ky tweeted: “I really understand where Justine is coming from with this, she meant no harm… just kidding I’m black”.