CNN editor sacked after praising Hezbollah-linked Muslim cleric

12 July 2010

The US news broadcaster CNN has fired its Middle East Editor Octavia Nasr (pictured) after she had said positive things about a Muslim cleric associated with Hezbollah. Nasr was forced to leave her position after calling Fadlallah a "giant" in a Twitter post following his death last weekend. CNN and Nasr had called the tweet an "error in judgment”, but an internal CNN memo leaked to the media a day after that statement said Nasr's "credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

Jewish groups had protested the tweet, noting Fadlallah's role in founding Hezbollah, in praising deadly terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, and in denying the Holocaust. However, the Anti-Defamation League, said it was satisfied with the statements of regret from Nasr and CNN and did not call for her firing.  Nasr explained in a blog post that she did not respect Fadlallah's record, noting that as a Lebanese Christian, she had lost relatives to Hezbollah attacks while he was a leader of the organization in the 1980s. She added that he had pressed for women's rights and had slammed Hezbollah's closeness to Iran in recent years, a position that led the movement to marginalize the cleric.

"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," Nasr wrote. "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."

Britain's ambassador in Beirut, France Guy, also praised the late cleric. In her blog, which is part of the Foreign Office website, she wrote about the “passing of a decent man,” and that meeting with Fadlallah “you would leave his presence feeling a better person.” Guy went on to state: “The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints.”

The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying that the ambassador had "expressed a personal view on Sheikh Sayyed Fadlallah, describing the man as she knew him. We welcomed his progressive views on women's rights and interfaith dialogue, but also had profound disagreements – especially over his statements advocating attacks on Israel."
 

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