Zain Verjee: Kenyans ‘Seriously Pissed Off’ Over CNN’s ‘Hotbed of Terror’ Remark

By Mark Joyella 

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Ahead of President Obama’s visit to Kenya Friday, CNN described the African nation in a report–and on Twitter–as a “hotbed of terror,” prompting social media ridicule and a request from Kenyan government officials for an apology.

Zain Verjee, a longtime CNN anchor who left the network last year, says “my eyes rolled to the back of my head when I saw that font on TV.”

Writing in a blog post, Verjee notes that “Kenyans are seriously pissed off” by “hotbed of terror” and are taking to social media to express their displeasure. “So Kenyans have given CNN a hard slap on social media. We have flexed our hot twitter muscle and voiced our displeasure. Let’s put it to bed.”

CNN, meanwhile, has added a note to the story posted to “The headline and lead of this article has been recast to indicate the terror threat is a regional one.”

Verjee argues that “hotbed of terror” probably wouldn’t have happened at CNN International:

It’s like two separate worlds really. CNN USA is driven much more by short-term gain, higher drama with a daily pressure of ratings and the need to win the minute. CNN international is more nuanced, not driven by the business of daily ratings. There is a much more sophisticated internal approach to Africa programming and reporting.

The entire CNN network should not be slammed for a ‘font’ that popped up on one package: “hotbed.” That font was generated by a single writer, or producer, who didn’t know better, or should have known better. I’ve worked at CNN most of my life. There are anchors, producers, writers, reporters and managers that are excellent journalists, that I respect greatly, who have visited Kenya, like Kenya and get the nuances, and gave me personally, a lot of freedom to tell great Kenya stories over 14 years.