Yahoo News Fires D.C. Bureau Chief for Comment on Romney, Race (Updated)

As Hurricane Isaac batters New Orleans, Yahoo's capital chief said, basically, that Romney doesn't care about black people

Updated 4:55 p.m. PST

Yahoo News fired Washington bureau chief David Chalian on Wednesday after he said that GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his wife Ann did not care about African Americans suffering in the wake of Hurricane Issac.

Chalian seemed to not notice that a microphone was on Wednesday during an online video broadcast when he made the comments that Yahoo later called "inappropriate."

"They're not concerned at all," Chalian said of the Romneys during an ABC News/Yahoo News broadcast, eliciting laughs from his colleagues. "They're happy to have a party with black people drowning."

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The audio was posted by the conservative media watchdog NewsBusters, whose reporter Matthew Sheffield said the gaffe "provided the perfect example of the pervasive anti-Republican bias Mitt Romney faces in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama."

Chalian was immediately fired.

"David Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo. He has been terminated effective immediately," a Yahoo spokeswoman said in a statement to TheWrap. "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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Sheffield at first mistook Chalian for an ABC News reporter, but since corrected his post. Chalian served as the political director of ABC News until 2010 and Yahoo has partnered with ABC for this year's election coverage.

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

By late afternoon, Chalian apologized in a statement on his Facebook page, saying he was "commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics."

"I am profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke," he said. "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."

Other political reporters rallied behind Chalian on Twitter.

Adam Nagourney, the New York Times' Los Angeles bureau chief, tweeted that his thoughts were with Chalian.

"David Chalian said something awful, but he is a 1st-rate journalist, terrific person and classy guy," he wrote. "His many friends are thinking of him."

Without naming Chalian directly, media pundit Dan Gillmor urged others to back off reporters who accidentally share political views, fearing that the most dispassionate journalists would only replace them.

"Either we're all going to cut each other some slack for studid things we say," he tweeted. "Or we're all going to become dull drones."

Ben Smith, the editor of BuzzFeed, admonished Yahoo for being so quick to pink-slip the reporter.

"Nobody is more skittish, and more eager to throw people overboard, than news organizations," he tweeted. "Ugh."