Dec. 22, 2013 -- The communications director fired over a tweet evoking AIDS and race that was sent as she was headed to Africa apologized today, saying she is "ashamed" for her insensitivity to the millions of people living with the virus.
Justine Sacco, formerly a PR executive for the Internet giant InterActive Corp., which owns popular websites like Match.com, Dictionary.com, and Vimeo, was fired over a tweet that came from her account on Friday that read: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"
Controversy erupted while Sacco was reportedly mid-flight with no Internet access. Today Sacco spoke to ABC News, saying, "My greatest concern was this statement reach South Africa first." After sending her statement to South African newspaper The Star, Sacco shared the following apology:
"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. "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."
A trending hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet and parody account @LOLJustineSacco quickly appeared on Twitter after Sacco sent the tweet. A fake Facebook account under her name was also created, where a post links to www.justinesacco.com, which brings up a donation page for Aid for Africa.
InterActive Corp issued a statement to ABC News Saturday distancing itself from the tweet and saying the employee was fired.
"There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," the InterActive Corp statement said. "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."