July 6th, 2010
06:48 PM ET

Nasr explains controversial tweet on Lebanese cleric

Fadlallah died Sunday in a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.

My tweet was short: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot. #Lebanon"

Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and a 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.

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.

I met Fadlallah in 1990. He was willing to take the risk of meeting with a young Christian journalist from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. Fadlallah was at the height of his power. As I was ushered in, I was told that he would not look at me in the eye and to make it quick as there was a long line of dignitaries waiting.

The interview went 45 minutes, during which I asked him about Hezbollah's agenda for an Islamic state in Lebanon. He bluntly told me that was his group's dream but there would be room for other religions. He also joked at the end of the interview that the solution for Lebanon's civil war was to send "all political leaders without exception on a ship away from Lebanon with no option to return."

He challenged me to run the entire interview on LBC without editing. We did.

This does not mean I respected him for what else he did or said. Far from it.

It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel. He regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.

But it was his commitment to Hezbollah's original mission - resisting Israel's occupation of Lebanon - that made him popular and respected among many Lebanese, not just people of his own sect.

In 1983, as Fadlallah found his voice as a spiritual leader, Islamic Jihad - soon to morph into Hezbollah - bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 299 American and French peacekeepers. I lost family members in that terror attack.

And it was during his time as spiritual leader that so many Westerners were kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon.

When the Lebanese Civil War ended in 1990 with Syria taking full control of Lebanon, Hezbollah was and remains the only armed militia in Lebanon. Under Syria's influence however, Hezbollah - declared a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union started becoming even more militant, with designs beyond Lebanon's borders to serve agendas for Syria and Iran.

Fadlallah himself was designated a terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department.

In later years, Hezbollah's leadership apparently did not like Fadlallah's vocal criticism of Hezbollah's allegiance to Iran. Nor did they like his assertions that Hezbollah's leaders had been distracted from resistance to Israeli occupation of portions of Lebanon and had turned weapons against their own people.

At first, he was simply pushed to the side, but later wasn't even referred to as a Hezbollah member. Rather, he was referred to as the scholar - the expert on Islam - but nothing more. During the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, his honorary title "Sayyed" - indicating that he's a descendant of the prophet - was dropped any time he was mentioned on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and other Hezbollah media outlets.

Through his outspoken Friday sermons and his regularly updated website, Fadlallah had a platform to spread what many considered a more moderate voice of Shia Islam than what was coming out of Iran. Immensely popular in Lebanon among the various religious groups, he also had followers across the region including in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and even as far as Morocco in northern Africa.

Sayyed Fadlallah. Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It's something I deeply regret.

soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. Orlando22

    I also find that mrs Nasr even says that she had family die in the 1982 US Marine barracks bombings she doesn't ask what US marines were doing in Lebanon. Where they cub scouts handing out candy or something?
    Are we supposed to think that the US army wasn't shelling Muslim positions and siding with Israel in that war?
    They were a legitimate military target not some bloody tourists wanting to see the beauty of Lebanon.
    It was for the Muslims of Lebanon there greatest victory over Israel and it's biggest ally the USA.

    July 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    After reading some of the comments here, I am amazed that there is one very important point that everyone seems to have missed. Anyone, even a news correspondent should have the right to speak their opinion, no matter how disagreeable it is. CNN claims to be "Fair and Balanced". Is this how you affirm what you claim to be? By knee jerk firing of this correspondent, CNN has shown the world for all to see, just how “Fair and Balanced” it is. I do not know if Octavia Nasr is an American citizen, and it really doesn’t matter. Just because she works for CNN does not make her a second class citizen and not allowed to express a different opinion than the CNN big wigs. The simple fact is that opposing opinions are what make an organization “Fair and Balanced”

    As far as for Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, in my opinion, he’s one of the lowest forms of life on earth. Was he a terrorist? Yes! Did he deserve die, Yes! Is the world a better place without him? Absolutely yes! The same goes to those just like him.

    All Octavia Nasr is guilty of is speaking an opinion that is obviously diametrically opposite from the standard accepted CNN company line. CNN is guilty of much more. Lying to the American public by claiming to be “Fair and Balanced”. How can your organization be “Fair and Balanced” if it only allows one point of view and fires an employee for a different point of view?

    This is a perfect example of why I prefer to get my news from Youtube rather CNN. Doesn’t say much about how much credibility I have in CNN now does it. I’m not the only one who feels that way either.

    One final thought. Whoever made the decision to fire Nasr gave a larger black eye to CNN than Nasr ever could. Smart money would realize that immediate damage control should already be in progress. Firing Nasr for what she said was a big mistake. Not getting her back as an opposing point of view in a news organization that claims to be fair and balanced is an even bigger one. Your motto should be changed to “Unfair and Off Balanced!

    July 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Orlando22

      Don't say you are fair and balanced if you call that man a terrorist but ignore the thousands killed and driven from there homes by Israel and US violence and terror in the Middle East.
      One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.
      I don't agree with this guy I don't like Islam at all but the bias is so overwhelming that even if you get a small breath of balanced reporting it's a relieve.
      The neo-con nutjobs in the US consider anyone that doesn't agree with them "terrorists".
      You are with us or with the terrorists.
      They are the worst of terrorists not just in the Middle East which they turned into a totalitarian nightmare but also in Latin America.
      Fair and balanced requires counting the victims and treating everyone of them as human beings worthy of respect and dignity and not some second class creatures that do not matter.

      July 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hassan

    RIP Mr Fadlallah 🙁 We'll miss you big time.........................

    July 8, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hassan

    Before was Helen Thomas & now Octavia Nas........ what is next USA & Israel??? Killing everyone-children women & innocent people!!!

    RIP MR Fadlallah 🙁

    July 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rana

    wlek ah ya octavia ah w yalli ma fehem el article sitteen 3omro ma yefham
    and to those who didnt understand what I just wrote above you can.... K my very nice and shiny A

    July 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tonya

    I am glad CNN had enough brain cells left to fire her. Her pathetic retort does nothing to subvert where her allegiance lies. Good bye and one less bad egg on CNN.
    Maybe I'll start watching them again.

    July 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PilgrimSoul

    Sure, Nasr gets fired, but Wolf Blitzer, a former AIPAC staffer and professional ultra-Zionist, gets to spout his pro-Likunik propaganda distortions on a regular basis. Another reason why I don't watch CNN anymore. MSNBC is going the same way. Get your news from the internet. Print and TV media are both doomed, because the neo-cons and the ultra-Zionist Lobby have veto power over both, and Americans want and need a frank discussion of Israel/Palestine and the Middle East. We'll never get that from CNN.

    July 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zéo Getty

    CNN has finally showed its true biased colors. I will never watch or read anything from CNN. Whatever happened to freedom of speech ? Are people in CNN silenced like the ones who work for FOX? Does CNN enjoy losing it's integrity ?

    Miss Nasr, you have done nothing wrong. And although I hate Hezbollah, I understood what you were trying to say about this man and your opinion is to be respected. This is a sad day for CNN. They lost me as fan – not that this will change anything. I will miss you Octavia and I will miss the love and respect I had for CNN.

    July 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tzim

    Great. Now that she was fired she can leave the US.


    July 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Orlando22

    This should help American news organisations and journalists get more balanced in there reporting.


    July 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |

    Just plain sad that CNN has enough tolerance to "forgive" a drug offender but PROMPTLY buckles-in and fires Octavia Nasr after 20 years of service for expressing personal condolences in a 140 word post on Twitter!!!

    Wonder what would be the New York Time's reaction if CNN set-up shop and broadcast live coverage of daily life under siege & bombardment in Gaza!!

    Would have loved to see a professional, factual, politically neutral, report explaining why hundreds of thousands of Lebanese mourners, Catholics, Orthodox, Sunnis and Shiites, marched in this cleric's funeral... Something that adds value to our understanding of how the world works outside the getto reinforced mind sets of the New York Times & its clientelle.

    Sad how fast CNN buckled-in. Sadder still that in this 21st century, an offensive & agressive neuclear power like Israel can commit mass-murder on live TV, and that the New York City media turns around & chastise any expression other than blind support!!! Sort of like scolding a child for scratching at his rapist!!! Those cheering on the rapist, Israel, are not only perverts in my book, but active particiapnts in the act!!

    July 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FouadRaja

    To CNN administration:
    Ayottollah Sayed Mohammed Hussein Fadhl Allah was the first islamic cleric to condemn the attack on 9/11.

    July 8, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David M

    CNN is over. They are now in the its with Fox and MSNBC. When will my beloved America return to brave, thoughtful, informative news? Even now, writing on this free-for-all reminds me that we are in real trouble as the intelligent have to make room for the ignorant). Disagreeing with Israel should not get you fired every time – and this time it wasn't even about Israel... It's a tyranny.

    CNN is over.

    July 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fadi

    This is unfair, this guy was one of the best people to his community, and she didn't say anything wrong.
    CNN is pro zionist, and expressing your personal opinions which might not be so will get you fired immediately!!

    July 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pat

    You know what. Screw these Jews. No one with any brain believes CNN anyway.

    July 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
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