CNN news editor resigns after controversial tweet

Middle East affairs editor praised Hezbollah leader; network concerned about credibility
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 07/12/2010

A CNN editor who covers the Middle East has left the network after a tweet praising the leader of a political party with ties to terrorism.

Octavia Nasr, CNN’s senior editor of Mideast affairs with 20 years of service at the network, posted a comment on her Twitter account on July 4 following the death of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Lebanese political party Hezbollah.

After Fadlallah’s death, Nasr tweeted she was “sad to hear of the passing” of Fadlallah, calling him “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” She explained after that she respected him for his strong stances on women’s rights under Islam and against honour killings.

However, Fadlallah was also known to be a supporter of suicide bombings, including suicide attacks on American barracks in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war. He also co-founded Hezbollah, which favours the destruction of Israel.

Reaction to the tweet came quickly, with Israel supporters, including the Simon Weisenthal Centre, demanding an apology. Others were concerned over Nasr’s ability to report on Middle Eastern affairs objectively.

Nasr quickly expanded on her message and pointed out it was Fadlallah’s positions on women’s rights and honour killings that garnered her respect, but CNN said the tweet didn’t meet its editorial standards and it was “a serious matter that will be dealt with accordingly.” A CNN internal memo was quoted in the New York Times, saying the network felt Nasr’s credibility had been compromised and she was resigning.

Soon after her tweet and before she left CNN, Nasr wrote on her blog, “Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”

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