Yahoo news director David Chalian was fired today after he was caught making an offensive comment on an open mic. Chalian was caught saying of the RNC convention, which took place as hurricane Issac hit New Orleans, “They are happy to have a party with black people drowning.”
Mr. Chalian has a long history as a power player in the journalism world. As such, he found public support PBS’s Gwen Ifill, who tweeted out:
— gwen ifill (@pbsgwen) August 29, 2012
Prior to working at Yahoo, Chalian was a political editor at PBS NewsHour. He and Ifill have appeared together on camera many times, so it is perhaps understandable that she would want to support him on a personal level. That said, once Chalian accuses a political party he is supposed to be covering impartially of racism and insensitivity, it’s a stretch to call him “God’s gift to political journalism.”
It’s also a stretch to claim this was “one mistake.” What was the mistake Chalian made in this situation? Was it saying what he believed? Getting caught saying it? It’s hard to see how what Chalian said could be classified as a mistake at all if he actually believed it.
And there’s another reason to think this may not have been a one-time incident. Perusing Chalian’s biography, I found this: “As part of the team that traveled to Alaska to produce Sarah Palin’sfirst television interview as the GOP vice presidential nominee (withABC News’ Charlie Gibson), Chalian received an Emmy Award nomination.”
This is the infamous gotcha interview in which Gibson stared down his reading glasses at Palin and demanded a definition of the Bush doctrine. It’s also the interview in which Gibson confronted Palin with a partial quote and, when she claimed it wasn’t accurate, snapped, “Exact words.”
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, “Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God.” Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don’t know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
The words were exact but incomplete. What Palin had actually said was “Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what isright. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders,are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God.” Again, David Chalian produced this interview. Did his distaste for the Republican party play a role in setting up this dishonest gotcha moment? Or does he just happens to be there when these things happen, like the Forrest Gump of political journalism?