Octavia Nasr Fired After 20 Years

March 7, 2012 by staff 

Octavia Nasr Fired After 20 Years, A CNN veteran of 20 years, Octavia Nasr called her tweet about Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah ‘an error of judgment’. Photograph: CNN
Twitter, with its strict 140-character limit, was never going to be the best medium to make a nuanced point about Middle East politics. But Octavia Nasr gave it a go.

The cost was great: Nasr was fired as CNN’s senior Middle East editor after 20 years with the US-based news channel.

The offending tweet was sent on Sunday morning following the death in Beirut of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was instrumental in the establishment of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Using her official CNN Twitter account Nasr wrote: “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

The tweet was immediately picked up by supporters of Israel, to which the Islamist group is bitterly opposed. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US released a statement demanding Nasr “apologise to all victims of Hezbollah t*rror*sm whose loved ones don’t share her sadness over the passing of one of Hezbollah’s giants”.

The text was swiftly removed from her Twitter feed, but by then it had been heavily circulated, with criticism mounting.

Nasr responded on Tuesday with a blog on the CNN website, calling her initial message “simplistic” and “an error of judgment”. Her respect for the ayatollah, who she had interviewed for Lebanese television in 1990, was owing to his stance on women’s rights, notably his demands that “honour killings” stop, she explained.

But this was not enough. The next day, Nasr was reportedly called in to see her bosses at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta. The New York Times quoted an internal memo from a senior vice-president, Parisa Khosravi, which said: “We have decided that [Nasr] will be leaving the company.”

The memo added: “At this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

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