Yahoo Fires DC News Chief After "Drowning" Joke

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 29 2012 1:15 PM

"They Are Happy To Have a Party With Black People Drowning" [Updated: Journalist Fired]

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David Chalian attends the Yahoo! News/ABC News White House Correspondents' Dinner Cocktail Reception at the Capital Hilton on April 28, 2012

Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: Yahoo! has fired its Washington bureau chief after he was caught on a hot mic last night making a joke about Isaac and the RNC. Yahoo's statement:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"David Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!.  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."

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The video of the hot-mic mishap is also back online. For the sake of formatting, we'll embed at the bottom of the post.

Original Post: Republicans aren't the only ones facing an uncomfortable race-related story today. So are two (or three, depending on how you count) major media outlets.

The most embarrassing of the media stories clearly goes to the ABC News-Yahoo! partnership, which saw a hot mic during last night's online broadcast capture this quote from an unidentified commentator: "They are happy to have a party with black people drowning," an apparent reference to the fact that Republicans were kicking off their convention at the same time Hurricane Isaac was churning toward New Orleans.

ABC is stressing that the words didn't come from any of its people (via the AtlanticWire), and the man who first flagged the hot-mic mishap, Newsbusters' Matthew Sheffield, is now claiming that the disembodied voice belongs to Yahoo News' Washington bureau chief David Chalian. (FWIW, Sheffield initially suggested the joke—for lack of a better term—was made by an ABC producer before updating his post.) We were ready to embed the video below so you could listen for yourself, but shortly before we hit publish it was marked private on YouTube.

The second story doesn't come with any juicy pull-quotes, but it nonetheless is getting some traction among conservative outlets. In short, some commentators are complaining that MSNBC went out of its way to cut away from high-profile speeches made by minorities last night.

We'll let The Daily Caller explain:

"In lieu of airing speeches from former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, a black American; Mia Love, a black candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Utah; and Texas senatorial hopeful Ted Cruz, a Latino American, MSNBC opted to show commentary anchored by Rachel Maddow from Rev. Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and Steve Schmidt."

Team Slatest was mostly flipping back and forth between the PBS and CNN feeds last night, so we can't vouch for the veracity of the claim. We will say, however, that we were generally a little surprised by the decisions to skip large chunks of speeches in favor of in-studio chatter by many of the TV networks.