U.S. Embassy in Cairo takes timeout in Twitter war with Egypt's president
Egyptian satirist and TV host Bassem Youssef surrounded by supporters in Cairo
April 3rd, 2013
05:43 PM ET

U.S. Embassy in Cairo takes timeout in Twitter war with Egypt's president

By Elise Labott

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo temporarily shut down its Twitter feed Wednesday as part of a public spat with the Egyptian president's office and the Muslim Brotherhood over the arrest of an Egyptian television comic.

The move came after a tweet from @USEmbassyCairo with a link to an episode of "The Daily Show" in which host Jon Stewart mocked the Egyptian president for the arrest of satirist Bassem Youssef, saying it was undemocratic to prosecute the Egyptian satirist.

On his comedy show Youssef, who is often compared to Stewart, takes on everything from President Mohamed Morsy's policies to hardline Islamic critics. He was questioned by Egyptian state authorities last week and fined for insulting Islam and Morsy.

"It's inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda," the Egyptian president's office shot back on its official Twitter feed.

It's the latest salvo in the recent Twitter war between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. On Tuesday, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, lashed out at the embassy, tweeting "Another undiplomatic & unwise move by @USEmbassyCairo, taking sides in an ongoing investigation & disregarding Egyptian law & culture."

State Department officials told CNN the decision to take down the embassy's Twitter feed was made by U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson without consulting the State Department in Washington. The officials said the State Department urged the embassy to put the page back up to avoid the appearance of caving to the Egyptians.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the embassy's Twitter feed is back up. The tweet in question, however, was deleted.

"We've had some glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed. This is regrettably not the first time. Embassy Cairo is looking at how to manage these glitches," she said. "They came to the conclusion that the decision to tweet it in the first place didn't accord with post management of the site."

It's not the first time Embassy Cairo's Twitter feed has drawn controversy. On September 11, 2012, the embassy put out a series of tweets aimed at calming ongoing protests outside its walls. The tweets, which referenced an anti-Muslim video blamed for the unrest, prompted criticism from then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who accused President Barack Obama for being an apologist for American values.

Egypt's latest criticism of the United States has not been limited to Twitter, or even to Embassy Cairo. The FJP also took issue with Nuland's comments at Monday's press briefing, in which she spoke of a "disturbing trend" of growing restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt, criticized Youssef's arrest and said "there does not seem to be an evenhanded application of justice" because the Egyptian government has been slow to investigate police brutality and violence against anti-Morsy protesters and journalists.

The FJP said they were outraged at Nuland's comments, calling them a "blatant interference" in Egypt's internal affairs.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday weighed in on Egypt's backward slide from democracy, warning that Egypt was at a "tipping point."

"It is our hope that there is still time to be able to turn the corner. Recent arrests, the violence in the streets, the lack of inclusivity with respect to the opposition - in public ways to make a difference to the people of Egypt – are all of concern today," Kerry said.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. StanCalif

    Here we go again! Take out a "dictator" and attempt to install "democracy"! Same results over and over. "Democracy" is much, much more than holding "free and fair" elections. Why don't we get it?
    Is Russia a "democracy"? Is Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia democracies? They all hold elections! Where is democracy? Missing! All we seem to accomplish is to create havoc and worse governments. Democracy cannot be install by simply holding an election!
    Our own "democracy" is beginning to fail! Super Pacs and lobbyists have taking over. Our elected representatives are failing to uphold the basic premise of our "democracy". Serve the money! That's all that matters!

    April 4, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply
  2. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015. ha ha ha

    April 4, 2013 at 4:05 am | Reply
  3. Jason Ganna

    Maybe the popularity of Islam will take a nosedive once the public realizes that religious dictatorships are worse than secular ones?

    April 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  4. OffTheWorldPolitics

    Smells like dictatorship....

    April 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Reply

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