x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Life goes on for fired CNN editor Octavia Nasr

Former Middle East editor says she was wrong to tweet about the death of the Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah and has moved on from the episode.

Octavia Nasr, who was fired from CNN, says she has no ill will toward the network.
Octavia Nasr, who was fired from CNN, says she has no ill will toward the network.

SHARJAH // Octavia Nasr was saddened when Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was instrumental in establishing Hizbollah in Lebanon, died in July this year. But she had no idea expressing her feelings would lead to her losing her job.

Commenting on her official CNN Twitter site, Ms Nasr, who at the time was the US cable news organisation's senior Middle East editor, wrote that she was "sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hizbollah's giants I respect a lot".

She was without a job 48 hours later. She learnt she had been fired while on holiday with her family in Beirut after her Tweet was taken as a show of support for a militant group responsible for attacks on Israel and its citizens. Rather than get upset, she took the news in stride and continued her holiday.

"I was not devastated," she said yesterday at the Sharjah International Book Festival.

"Cutting short my children's holiday to rush back home would have been devastating to them. I simply decided to put the whole affair behind me and think to the future. Life goes on, the past is the past and you can't change it. Why dwell? What's important is today, this moment. Everything else pales in comparison."

The tweet from the 20-year CNN veteran provoked uproar in Jewish and right-wing circles around the world as it quickly spread. A Facebook campaign demanded an apology from CNN and the firing of Ms Nasr.

The New York Times quoted an internal memo from a CNN senior vice-president that stated Ms Nasr would be leaving the company because the organisation thought her credibility had been compromised. Learning that the intent of her Twitter message had been misunderstood by many of those who had read it, Ms Nasr issued a statement on her CNN 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," she wrote. "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."

Six months after her dismissal, Ms Nasr says she harbours no ill will towards CNN. She has never sought any legal action against the network and has no plans to do so at present. She claims she has no anger or frustration regarding the incident.

"I carry nothing," she said. "It was a shock, it was a crisis, but I didn't take it to be anything more than a day in the life. Life is full of unexpected things.

"It was all very sudden and obviously it wasn't planned. I took time to think, regroup, talk to my husband, my kids about where do we go from here."

After a brief period of reflection, Ms Nasr has established her own media consulting company, Bridges Media Consulting, in Atlanta, where CNN has its world headquarters. She said the move has allowed her more expressiveness.

"I always knew that after CNN I would do consulting because I learnt from the best and I am someone who really enjoys doing what I did and want to do," she said. "The time has come for me to get on the road representing myself and everything I stand for. Through Bridges Media Consulting, I wish to be a voice of reason, a voice of moderation, a voice of expertise and best practices.

"I created Bridges Media Consulting to reflect what I've done in my career so far and serve as my platform to carry on making a difference in our world".

ealghalib@thenational.ae