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CNN Editor Fired After INN Reports Support for Hizbullah Cleric

A senior Middle East editor at CNN has been fired shortly after INN reported her support for a Hizbullah cleric that sparked a Facebook revolt.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/8/2010, 11:12 AM / Last Update: 7/8/2010, 12:53 PM

A senior Middle East editor at CNN has been fired due to a Facebook campaign that was launched shortly after Israel National News reported her expressed public support for a Hizbullah cleric.

CNN's 20-year senior editor Octavia Nasr had posted a comment on the Twitter social networking Internet web site after Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah died Sunday, calling him “one of Hezbollah's giants [whom] I respect a lot.”

Israel National News pounced on the tweet immediately, as did media watchdog Honest Reporting, which asked, “Is Nasr a Hizbullah sympathizer? This is disturbing enough given that the group is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and is committed to the destruction of Israel. And which of Fadlallah's individual views does Nasr admire?”

Within a day and a half, more than a thousand Facebook entries flooded CNN with demands that Nasr be fired for her comments. One sample letter posted on the anti-Nasr Facebook action page stated:

'I demand that CNN immediately fire Ms. Nasr for her actions, not to mention her obvious lack of objectivity in her public role in the dissemination of 'fair and balanced reporting.'

Fadlallah, who exhorted terrorists to commit suicide bombing attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, served as the spiritual inspiration for the Hizbullah terrorist group and the Iraqi Dawa party.

The Shi'ite Muslim cleric had regularly denounced Israel and the United States.

According to her CNN biography, the Lebanese-born Nasr's job included the task of “integrating social media with newsgathering and reporting” – in other words, merging the world of journalism with the world of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. She reported and provided analysis about the Middle East for CNN/U.S., CNN International and CNN.com .

A spokesman for CNN on Tuesday called Nasr's tweet “an error of judgment,” adding that “CNN regrets any offense her Twitter message caused. It did not meet CNN's editorial standards. This is a serious matter and will be dealt with accordingly.”

Nasr deleted her tweet sometime between Monday and Tuesday, and in a follow-up blog post Tuesday evening apologized for what she said was a misunderstanding about the intent of her tweet. “It conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work. That's not the case at all,” she wrote, adding, “to me, as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on women's rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of 'honor killing.' He called the practice primitive and nonproductive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

“This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said,” she added. “Far from it.”