Z-Burger Chain Under Fire for a Twitter Ad Depicting James Foley Execution and a Burger (Updated)

Owner Peter Tabibian says a contracted media company, Valor Media, is responsible.

Photograph courtesy of Z-Burger.

DC-based chain Z-Burger is being heavily criticized for a tweet over the weekend that juxtaposed a photo of the murdered American journalist James Foley awaiting execution by ISIS in 2014 with an image of a hamburger. The message from Z-Burger reads “When you say you want a burger and someone says okay let’s hit McDonalds.” Underneath the image of Foley was the message “You disgrace me.” The tweet has since been deleted. 

Owner Peter Tabibian apologized on behalf of Z-Burger, which operates four locations in DC and Maryland, and says an outside company, Valor Media, was responsible. Tabibian says he hired the North Carolina-based group three months ago to handle all of Z-Burger’s social media and ad campaigns. The tweet was live for about an hour before he was made aware of it, and then he contacted the company to delete it.

Michael Valor, who runs Valor Media, confirms that his company was at fault. “Z-burger had no part in the creation of this content or its release,” he says, explaining that a young art director whom the company recently hired didn’t know the image was of Foley and that additional measures are now in place to screen social media posts before they’re live. “We’re trying to make sure nothing like this happens again,” says Valor. “We’re a young company, and we’re human, but I take full responsibility.”

Also, please keep eating Z-Burger?

Tabibian says that around midnight he contacted the company to stop issuing apologies, and stepped in himself with a personal message about the incident.

“I just don’t know what happened in this incident. I don’t want to make any excuses for Valor Media,” says Tabibian. “We are investigating to see what exactly happened. [Valor] said to me he hired someone new, but I’m really not happy about what happened. We’re investigating this heavily and trying to make the right decision.”

This post has been updated to include Valor’s comments. 

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.