Foreign Policy Blogs

CNN Editor Fired for a Tweet

An editor at CNN who sent out a Tweet expressing regret over the death of Hezbollah’s spiritual adviser paid for the Tweet with her job.

CNN Editor Fired for a Tweet

Fadlallah died Sunday in a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.

When Mideast Editor Octavia Nasr tweeted about the death of Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, Hezbollah’s spiritual advisor she said, “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

An outcry over the comment ensued.

In a July 6 letter, the Anti-Defamation League wrote to CNN about the matter, saying:

Fadlallah, designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a specially designated terrorist, disseminated numerous fatawa’ supporting terrorist operations and was a vocal supporter of terrorism against Israeli targets.

It is clearly an impropriety for a CNN journalist/editor to express such a partisan viewpoint as Ms. Nasr did in her tweet.

The same day, Nasr blogged about the Tweet, attempting to explain that her comment was misunderstood and taken out of context.

It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work. That’s not the case at all.

Here’s what I should have conveyed more fully:

I used the words “respect” and “sad” because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of “honor killing.” He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

Whether Nasr intended her comments to be controversial or not, the chain of events resulting from a Tweet clearly show that caution is the best recipe for journalists when it comes to Twitter.

As Nasr said in her blog posting on the issue for CNN, “140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.”



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society