TAMPA, Fla. – ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson offered his support Thursday for journalist David Chalian, one day after Yahoo! News swiftly fired the Washington bureau chief following a hot mic moment and ensuing media controversy.
Donaldson told The Huffington Post that it's "very regrettable what happened with David."
"We've all been in situations where we say things we that think are private," said Donaldson, who worked with Chalian, a former ABC News political director. "We kid. We jape. I've said things that are just, ugh, beyond the pale in a sense. I'm not making an excuse for him. Understand that. He properly, in his statement, issued an apology that I believe was heartfelt and he should have. But life will go on. He's not damaged goods, in my estimation, to the extent that he'll never work again in the business."
On Wednesday, conservative watchdog NewsBusters posted audio of Chalian saying Monday on a hot mic, prior to a livestream broadcast, that the Romneys were "happy to have a party with black people drowning," a reference to the optics of Hurricane Isaac heading to New Orleans as the Republican National Convention was kicking off.
The NewsBusters post Wednesday morning quickly gained traction in conservative media circles through Breitbart and The Drudge Report. By early afternoon, Yahoo! News announced it was terminating Chalian, who later apologized to the Republican nominee and his wife.
The firing of Chalian, a well-known figure in the political media world, has been a hot topic as journalists unwind over drinks following the long days covering the Republican convention. Several journalists, in private conversations, expressed sympathy for Chalian while agreeing that he made an inappropriate comment.
Some journalists have spoken publicly in support of Chalian, including PBS's Gwen Ifill. She tweeted: "One mistake does not change this. @DavidChalian is God's gift to political journalism. #IStandwithDavid"
Donaldson spoke with The Huffington Post at the CNN Grill, a bustling, pop-up restaurant and broadcast center that's been a hub for journalists and political operatives all week, and where talk of Chalian is surely more prevalent than just about anywhere else. Regarding the media controversy of the moment, Donaldson tried putting things in perspective, noting that "almost all the people, the 7.5 billion people on this planet, have no idea what this story is" and six months from now, the rest of them will forget it.
While some journalists privately expressed surprise that Chalian was immediately fired, rather than first suspended, Donaldson said he wouldn't second guess Yahoo's decision.
On Thursday, Donaldson said he sent Chalian an email telling him to "just keep going."
"He's not a bad guy. He's not someone who's a mean person," Donsaldson said. "That joke of his -- inappropriate, understand I'm not defending the joke –- reflects who he is."
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more