UK
22/12/2013 10:03 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 01:38 GMT

Justine Sacco Apologises For 'Needless And Careless' Africa AIDS Tweet

Facebook/Justine Sacco

The American PR executive who was fired for a tweet joking about AIDS in Africa has apologised for the furore she sparked.

"Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" tweeted Justine Sacco, the now ex corporate communications director for internet company IAC, which owns popular websites OkCupid, Match.com, CollegeHumor, The Daily Beast and Vimeo.

With her flight to South Africa apparently airborne, and Sacco unaware of the furore she had created, the hashtag #hasjustinelandedyet trended, while her account appeared to have been deleted. She was threatened by numerous users with rape, murder, and deliberate infection with HIV.

“My greatest concern was this statement reach South Africa first,” Sacco said in a statement to South African newspaper The Star.

“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.

“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."

IAC said on Saturday: "The offensive comment does not reflect the views and values of IAC.

"We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in question."

"There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally.

"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."