A strange global kerfuffle erupted on Wednesday involving two comedians, the Egyptian president, and a briefly deleted Twitter account.
Here’s how the exchange went down, as reported by our colleague Max Fisher: It began when the U.S. embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to a segment by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show bashing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. In the clip, Stewart dismisses Morsi as a “crazy guy” and criticizes his treatment of Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef.
That provocative tweet clearly didn’t sit well with Morsi. His official account tweeted back: “It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda”.
The U.S. embassy appears to have responded to Morsi’s message by temporarily shutting down its Twitter account. Foreign Policy says that the State Department urged the embassy to put it back online for fear of having it “appear as if the U.S. is caving to the online pressure.”
And when the embassy account did re-emerge a little while later, the recent offending tweets had been removed.
Morsi, too, appeared to have deleted the tweet questioning the embassy’s original tweet.
Explains our colleague Ernesto Londoño:
@USEmbassyCairo has been among the most active and interactive twitter accounts run by the State Department. Over the past couple of years, it has fielded questions in real time on everything from slow visa processing and U.S. tear gas export policy to reports in the Egyptian press the embassy has pushed back on.
Whoever is behind the account has been on a curiously long leash, considering how risk averse Foggy Bottom tends to be on message control, particularly in the Arab world.
But now it looks like they might get reined in a bit.