All Of Twitter Watched And Waited For Justine Sacco To Land In Africa Last Night After PR Exec Tweeted Racist AIDS Joke



Welp, that was interesting. Late yesterday, I told you about Justine Sacco, the IAC Communications Executive who tweeted a racist joke about AIDS shortly before departing on her flight to somewhere in Africa. While Sacco was in the air and presumably did not have access to the internet (while some international flights have wi-fi, Sacco did not appear to be online for many hours), her tweet made Valleywag and before Sacco probably had a chance to finish an in-flight movie, #HasJustineLandedYet began to trend on the social network. Basically, my entire timeline (and I follow a wide variety of people) was riveted. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen go down online. It was really kind of astonishing.

Someone used the location information on Sacco’s tweet to figure out just what part of the airline terminal she was in and what flights were leaving for the continent of Africa around the time, narrowing down the possible flights. It was determined that Sacco was likely on a flight headed for Cape Town, South Africa, landing at approximately 11:20 p.m. EST last night. And so, the internet waited for Justine to land, to see just how the world’s dumbest PR exec would handle learning just how much her life had changed in just a few hours.

See, we knew what Sacco did not yet know — that she was out of a job, and IAC had actually already scrubbed her name off their website and posted her position on their available jobs page.  How would she react to discovering that her egregiously shitty joke resulted in a parody account, @LOLJustineSacco, and had captivated what I’m guessing was a not insignificant amount of people worldwide?

I mean, I actually set my phone alarm for this.

At about 11:30 p.m. it became clear that those who determined which flight Sacco must be on were right, because shortly after that flight landed, Sacco’s offensive tweet was deleted. And then her account was suspended. Her Facebook came down. A number of fake accounts popped up after that, including one, @JustineSacco6, that it took awhile for many to grasp wasn’t the real Justine. Meanwhile, a Twitter user named @Zac_R, who said he lived nearby and had been watching the whole mess unfold, decided to wait for Sacco’s flight to deboard, curious if the whole thing was real or a hoax. At the terminal, he claimed to encounter Sacco’s father, who is allegedly South African, waiting for his daughter.

A little bit later, @Zac_R tweeted a of a woman identified as Sacco arriving in the gate area. Her sister supposedly greeted her immediately with, “Don’t worry, it’ll blow over soon.”

Sacco has not yet spoken out in an interview or apologized on any of her now-shuttered social media accounts. I suspect that Sacco will take an extended vacation in Africa and return to the U.S. with a new last name — perhaps her mother’s maiden name — on her resume, hopeful that this whole thing has blown over. Deleting all of her social media accounts without issuing a mea culpa seems like a bad PR move to me … especially for someone who’s paid to be an expert on such things.

To be honest, I’m still sorting through my feelings on the whole shitshow. What Sacco tweeted was stupid, offensive and grotesque, and certainly a fireable offense, especially given the nature of her position at a major media company. (And for those who think this was a one-time fuck up, Sacco had tweeted a number of other questionable things, though none as bad as her most recent attempt at humor.) I laughed at so many of the jokes made at her dumb ass expense. And yet, so many people gathering “together” online to watch this woman’s real-time reaction as she experienced the fallout of her actions was utterly fascinating, bizarre and incredible, but also totally unsettling. It was a total trainwreck I fully admit I could not tear my eyes off of.

The most positive thing to come out of this whole thing? Some savvy genius at @AidForAfrica registered the domain name for and set it up to accept donations for the anti-AIDS charity.

[NY Times]

Original by Amelia McDonell-Parry @xoamelia

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