#WTF moment of the year? Seriously, what was “racist PR director” Justine Sacco thinking? [UPDATED]

I don’t have any deep insight here. Really, this post is mostly about pointing to a story, throwing up my hands in disbelief and wondering what the fuck?

Here’s the story.

InterActiveCorp said Saturday that it has “parted ways” with PR director Justine Sacco, a day after a racist tweet from her account went viral.

The tweet, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” sparked outcry online and spurred a hashtag that trended on Twitter.

The tweet was sent from London on Sacco’s account before she boarded a 10-hour-and-46-minute flight to Africa. The ordeal unfolded while she was in the air — on a Boeing 747 without Wi-Fi.

During that time, the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet gained traction on Twitter, taking the top trending spot for hours.

Shortly after her flight landed, the Twitter account was deleted. Later, Sacco’s Facebook account also was deleted.

Sacco seemed to enjoy living dangerously, it seems.

This wasn’t the only tweet that raised eyebrows. Other tweets from Sacco’s Twitter account included:

“I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night. #fml” tweeted on Feb. 24, 2012, and “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?” tweeted on Jan. 30, 2013.

As it turns out, Justine, you can be.

Sure, people tweet stupid stuff all the time. Seriously, every second of every day some bonehead is jacking something idiotic, ignorant or appalling into the Twitters. Hateful tweets, homophobic tweets, racist tweets, incoherent tweets, it’s all par for the course.

But this one … Justine Sacco was a public relations director. She’s in the industry that knows how media – and social media – works. They advise other companies on things like, you know, not tweeting racist shit. This story is absolutely, positively, 100% incomprehensible. Even if you think things like this, you’re a pro. You know better than to say them out loud. You know better than to broadcast them to the public.

This is like a Michigan assistant coach showing up the day of the Ohio State game wearing red. It’s like the grand dragon of the local Klan chapter marrying a black woman. It’s like your psychologist referring you to a psychic.

My WTF meter is pegged. To 11. I mean, I’m the last guy to tell you that the PR industry is populated by nothing but saints and geniuses. Sometimes they can be positively sociopathic. But … damn!

A lot of times when someone tweets something stupid we’re informed that “the account was hacked.” It wasn’t, of course, but it’s just what you say. In this case, that her account had in fact been compromised was the first thing I thought. That’s simply more plausible than the idea that this person, who has that job, in that industry would say those things.

But she has apparently been fired and nobody is claiming she was hacked. Not yet, anyway.

The final line of the linked story is maybe my favorite, though:

Sacco could not be reached for comment.

Seriously? This is what you learned in all those PRSA certification classes? Duck and cover?

I’m going to try and keep up with this story because I just cannot believe that it went down the way it’s being reported. If it did, whatever university Sacco attended needs to send a couple guys around to repossess her sheepskin.

UPDATE: Nope. I’m wrong. She wasn’t hacked. Just stupid. It’s a nice apology, but of all the apologies that shouldn’t have been necessary in the history of the world, this has to be near the top of the list.

6 replies »

  1. Options

    1. She’s in PR.
    2. It was an attempt at irony, and she was trying to call attention to the disaster affecting Africa and pointing out that black people are not valued as highly as white people in these sorts of situations.
    3. She was trying to get fired.
    4. She has a serious substance abuse problem and underneath that, is a racist.

    So there are your options. 1. Stupid. 2. Incompetent. 3. Machivellian 4. Wasted.

    BTW, I too find it baffling. If anything, being in PR teaches people to be uber-cautious, not risk takers.