WASHINGTON – Yikes! It seems The Daily Show and diplomacy dont mix.
Thats the lesson the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is learning the hard way after being rebuked by both the Egyptian government and the State Department for causing an international incident.
The embassy tweeted a link to a Jon Stewart monologue that mocked Egypts president – offending the Egyptians – and then deleted its entire Twitter account before restoring it without the post in question, irritating Washington.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsis office called the tweet inappropriate and unbecoming of a diplomatic mission while the State Department said the unusual affair was the result of glitches in the embassys social media policies that are now being corrected.
The imbroglio over the tweet comes at a time of rising tensions between Cairo and Washington, which has expressed deep concerns that Morsis government is backsliding on human rights protections.
And, it underscores the pitfalls of allowing individual American embassies to control the messages they disseminate through social media.
The trouble began Tuesday when the embassy posted a link to Stewarts monologue on his Comedy Central show the night before.
Stewart took savage aim at Morsi for the arrest and interrogation of Egyptian comic Bassam Youssef, who has frequently criticized the president on a popular television program that has been likened to Stewarts own.
In the clip, Stewart accused Morsi of being petty, undemocratic and ignoring more pressing problems like Egypts economic crisis and violent crime to go after satirists who are critical of his government. He said such activity, which provides him with a living, is harmless and should be protected.
Morsis office responded to the embassys post on its own Twitter feed, saying: Its inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.
The embassy responded Wednesday by deleting its entire Twitter account, drawing the wrath of State Department headquarters in Washington, which was already peeved by the initial post. The account was then restored minus the Stewart tweet.
Embassies and consulates and their senior leadership manage the content that is on their feeds, and they are expected to use good policy judgment in doing that, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
She declined to say whether the State Department agreed with the Egyptian governments criticism of the tweet. But she suggested the embassy had erred by posting a link to a video that is already widely available on the Internet.
Steve Albani, spokesman for Comedy Central, declined to comment on the flap.
Nuland stressed that the U.S. position on the arrest of Youssef, whom she described as Egypts Jon Stewart counterpart, remained unchanged since Monday, when she referred to it as part of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt.
On Tuesday, the Muslim Brotherhoods Freedom and Justice Party denounced Nulands comments as blatant interference in Egypts internal affairs.