August 29, 2012, 4:23 PM
By BRIAN STELTER
Yahoo on Wednesday said it had fired David Chalian, the Web site’s Washington bureau chief, after he was recorded at the Republican National Convention saying that the convention officials were “happy to have a party with black people drowning.”
Yahoo said the reference Mr. Chalian made to the flooding caused by Hurricane Issac was “inappropriate and does not represent the views” of the company. In a statement, Yahoo also said, “We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended.”
Mr. Chalian said he was profoundly sorry for making what he called “an inappropriate and thoughtless joke.” He publicly apologized to the Romneys.
Mr. Chalian’s “drowning” comment was made on Monday night during Yahoo’s live Web video coverage of the convention. The coverage is being produced in partnership with ABC News, where Mr. Chalian worked as political director until 2010. After a little more than a year at PBS’s “NewsHour,” he joined Yahoo in late 2011.
The comment was picked up by NewsBusters, a conservative media watchdog Web site, which posted a short video clip of it on Wednesday morning. Mr. Chalian, who is heard but not seen in the clip, was apparently unaware that his words were being Webcast at the time.
He said to an unidentified guest, “Feel free to say, ‘They’re not concerned at all. They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.’ ” Laughter could then be heard in the background.
The context of Mr. Chalian’s remarks — was he merely goading a guest to say something provocative, or was he expressing his own point of view? — was unclear in the audio clip. NewsBusters said it was a “perfect example of the pervasive anti-Republican bias Mitt Romney faces in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama.”
Mr. Chalian seemed to dispute that interpretation. In a statement, he said that he was “commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics.”
He continued, “I have apologized to the Romney campaign, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Gov. and Mrs. Romney. I also regret causing any distraction from the exceptional coverage of the Republican convention by Yahoo News and ABC News.”