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U.S. Embassy Tweets Jon Stewart's Egypt Monologue; Diplomatic Incident Ensues

We told you over the weekend about the satirist known as the "Egyptian Jon Stewart" being questioned for nearly five hours over accusations he insulted President Mohammed Morsi and Islam.

Then, on Tuesday, we reported that Egyptian authorities are threatening to revoke the license of the private TV station that airs Bassem Youssef's weekly program. As NPR's Steve Mullis wrote, comedian Jon Stewart defended Youssef, a guest on his Comedy Central show, on Monday night's episode of The Daily Show. In a monologue, Stewart criticized Morsi's actions, to much laughter and applause from his audience.

Turns out one man's comedy is another man's international incident. That's the lesson being learned by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The Associated Press has this background:

"The embassy tweeted a link to a Jon Stewart monologue that mocked Egypt's president — offending the Egyptians — and then deleted its entire Twitter account before restoring it without the post in question, irritating Washington.

"Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's 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 embassy's social media policies that are now being corrected."

The deleted tweet took up a significant portion of the State Department press briefing on Wednesday, with reporters pressing spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on the matter. Here's a sampling:

"QUESTION: All right. As much as I would like to start with the trip – I'm sure other people will get back to it – I have to start with perhaps a less weightier matter than the Secretary's Mideast peace efforts, and that is Jon Stewart. What is going on with the Twitter – Embassy Cairo's Twitter feed? It's up, it's down, it's back up again, it's deleted the tweet that had the link to the – Monday's monologue about President Morsy. What's the deal there?

"MS. NULAND: Well, first to say that Embassy Cairo's Twitter feed is back up now. We've had some glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed. This is regrettably not the first time. We are now – or I should say Embassy Cairo is now working to remedy those glitches and they're looking at how they manage the site, but just to advise that the site is now back up and is carrying U.S. Government content again.

"QUESTION: Can you explain why that – the tweet was deleted?

"MS. NULAND: I would refer you to Embassy Cairo. I think that they came to the conclusion that the decision to tweet it in the first place didn't accord with post management of the site.

"QUESTION: Okay. That's understandable. But you're aware the Egyptian Government – that President Morsy's office response, right, that this is political propaganda, it's unacceptable for a diplomatic mission to be spreading it. Is that why it was deleted?

"MS. NULAND: I can't speak to the – as you know, the decisions about Twitter content are made out at post. I can't speak to the decision to re-tweet Jon Stewart to start with. But Jon Stewart is a comedy show in the U.S."

Nuland later added: "There were no instructions with regard to giving the tweet; there were no instructions with regard to the site. There were – the only instruction from this building was: Every embassy should have a Twitter feed, so why did you take it down?"

This isn't the first time the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has been involved in a controversy with the Egyptian government. Last year, the two sides argued over Egyptian protesters breaching the walls of the U.S. Embassy over a film that offended many Muslims.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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