Apologies abound when image of journalist beheaded by ISIS is used to promote D.C. burger joint

A Washington, D.C.,  burger joint, Z-Burger, found itself facing a public relations nightmare when a social media company hired to promote the eatery tweeted out an image of murdered journalist James Foley, who was beheaded by ISIS, juxtaposed with a burger.

The highly offensive tweet, deleted within an hour, intended to convey that it was a “disgrace” to buy a hamburger from McDonald’s.

How on earth anyone, in their wildest dreams, could think this would be appropriate is beyond comprehension.

The image of Foley is from a 2014 propaganda video showing Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John, beheading the journalist.

Peter Tabibian, owner of the Z-Burger chain, told The Washington Post that he hired Valor Media of Raleigh, N.C., to run his company’s Twitter account.

“I’m really sorry about what happened,” Tabibian said. “I take full responsibility for what happened. It is my company.”

“I trusted someone to do stuff on behalf of us,” he continued. “I made a big mistake doing that. I’m very sorry to the Foley family and his friends and anybody who knows him.”

Tabibian, whose family fled Iran in the 1980s, said when he saw the Foley post, he “almost fell out of his chair and cried.”

He posted an apology on social media and noted that he ended his relationship with Valor Media.

Tabibian said he also made a donation to the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.

Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, commented on the offensive tweet on the foundation’s Twitter account.

“I am very saddened that @Zburger would be so insensitive and ignorant of others’ pain while marketing their hamburger,” the tweet read. “I look forward to hearing an apology from Peter Tabibian and Michael Valor and their promised donation to the foundation #inspiring moral courage.”

It’s highly likely that Z-burger may never fully recover from the damage done to its brand.

Adding to the bizarre incident was an online apology from Michael Valor, the 23-year-old owner of Valor Media.


Avoiding direct interaction with the media, the energetic owner tweeted out a “one on one” video explaining that Z-burger “had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Valor took responsibility for the tweet, laying it at the feet of “a new art director” who was brought on recently because of an influx of work.

That he seemed far more concerned about the hit to his company the incident is sure to bring about than the damage he brought on Z-Burger being all too apparent.

Tom Tillison


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