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Published: Monday December 23, 2013 MYT 4:15:01 AM
Updated: Monday December 23, 2013 MYT 4:15:53 AM

Fired PR executive apologises for AIDS in Africa tweet

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A public relations executive who ignited an online furore after posting a message on Twitter joking about AIDS in Africa, apologised on Sunday, saying she was ashamed of her comment.

Justine Sacco, who was subsequently fired from the prominent New York-based Internet media company IAC/InterActive Corp after the tweet created a firestorm on social media, issued a statement of remorse on Sunday to ABC News and South Africa's The Star newspaper.

"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," she said.

"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," the statement said.

Just before boarding a plane for South Africa on Friday, Sacco posted a tweet to her online account, saying: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!"

Sacco's tweet quickly circulated outside her relatively small circle of about 500 followers, with thousands of users denouncing the comment as racist and insensitive. Others called for her dismissal from her post as IAC's director of corporate communications.

Sacco apparently remained unaware of the controversy caused by the comment until she landed in Cape Town about 12 hours later. She quickly issued a tweet apologising, then deleted her account.

IAC, which had condemned the message, said on Saturday that the company and Sacco had "parted ways."

IAC operates more than a dozen Internet websites, including the news site The Daily Beast, Vimeo, CollegeHumor and dating websites like Match.com and OKCupid.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere, editing by G Crosse)

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