Yahoo fires journalist after Romney joke

August 31st, 2012 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook Washington, Aug 31 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Yahoo News fired its Washington bureau chief less than 24 hours after a live microphone caught him joking that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would not mind if African-Americans died in a hurricane.

“They aren’t concerned at all,” David Chalian, apparently unaware that his microphone was live, said of Romney and his wife, Ann, during the live Internet broadcast Tuesday evening.

“They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.”

The wisecrack, first reported by the conservative website Newsbusters, was an apparent reference to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina tragedy, which devastated the African-American communities in New Orleans.

Chalian made the joke as Hurricane Issac barrelled ashore in Louisiana and threatened to disrupt the Republican National Convention in Florida.

The incident is the latest in a series of media scandals in recent years that have sparked national discussion of journalistic decorum against the background of America’s rancorous, hyper-partisan political landscape.

“David Chalian’s statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “He has been terminated effective immediately. We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended.”

Chalian, who was hired by Yahoo last year to bolster its coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign, took to Twitter and Facebook to apologize for his remarks.

“I am profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke,” he wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.

On Facebook, he added: “I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics. I have apologized to the Romney campaign, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Gov. and Mrs. Romney.”

Attempts to reach Chalian for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Prominent newscaster Gwen Ifill, Chalian’s former colleague at PBS Newshour, described Chalian on Twitter Wednesday as “God’s gift to political journalism”.

Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker called him one of “the best and fairest political journalists in this business”.

Former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the subject of much media criticism and jokes herself, weighed in on the Chalian firing Thursday as well.

Appearing on Fox News, Palin said she was “glad” he had been fired. She accused Chalian of trying to change the context of her quotes in a 2008 interview, and called the journalist’s remarks “horrible” and “racist”.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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