December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
4 months ago

MSNBC host apologizes after panel makes fun of Romney photo with black grandchild

Updated 2:48 p.m. ET, 12/31/2013

(CNN) - An MSNBC host apologized Tuesday morning after she and panelists on her weekend program faced criticism for poking fun at a photo of Mitt Romney, his wife and their nearly two dozen grandchildren, zeroing in on the Romneys' recently adopted African-American grandchild, Kieran.

"I am sorry. Without reservation or qualification. I apologize to the Romney family. #MHPapology," Melissa Harris-Perry wrote on Twitter. Her statements were also posted on MSNBC's website.

"As black child born into large white Mormon family I feel familiarity w/ Romney family pic & never meant to suggest otherwise."

Harris-Perry has Mormon ancestors, and her mother graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah, where she wrote articles about Mormon womanhood, according to Religion Dispatches online magazine. Harris-Perry, herself, identifies as a Unitarian Universalist.

"I apologize to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices," she continued, on Twitter.

Transracial adoptions: A 'feel good' act or 'no big deal'?

During the segment, which appeared on the show "Melissa Harris-Perry," the panelists made jokes about the infant standing out.

Two panelists later said their comments weren’t directed at the baby and apologized if the family was offended.

Asked Sunday to come up with captions for the photo as part of a game they were playing, one of panelists, actress Pia Glenn, started singing lines from the song popularized by Sesame Street: "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others."

Another panelist, comedian Dean Obeidallah, said the picture "really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party." (Obeidallah appears frequently on CNN and writes a regular opinion column for

Harris-Perry described the baby as "gorgeous," before predicting Kieran would one day marry North West, the daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

"Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?" Harris-Perry said, drawing laughs.

CNN reached out to Romney for a comment.

Glenn, the panelist who sang the song, first defended her comments on Twitter, but later apologized.

"Adoptive parents giving a child of ANY ethnicity a loving home,I apologize.I absolutely did not intend to harm you but it seems that I have," she wrote.

For his part, Obeidallah also defended his comments but said in an email to CNN he was not trying to mock the family or the baby.

"Occasionally my jokes have been known to 'cross the line' and I can assure you that in the future some of my jokes will do that again," he said. "My joke on MHP was not intended in any way to mock the Romney family or the baby they adopted. Rather it was a joke about the lack of racial diversity that we see at the Republican National Convention. I apologize to the Romney family and especially the baby if any of them were offended by that joke."

In September, Romney announced on Twitter that Kieran James Romney had been adopted. His son Ben and daughter-in-law Andelynne are the parents.

After Republican blogs and commentators pointed out the panel’s comments, the criticism started pouring in Monday.

Stuart Stevens, a political consultant and senior adviser to Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, tweeted "MSNBC has become a club where the smug go to exchange hateful opinions and reassure each other it's acceptable."

Former Republican Sen. Scott Brown, a friend of the Romneys, urged MSNBC to apologize for what he called the "wildly inappropriate incident. Viewers and the Romney family deserve better."

"Check out these adult progressives on MSNBC mocking a black child for being adopted by a white family," tweeted conservative commentator and radio host Dana Loesch.

And early Tuesday Sarah Palin weighed in.

"It's a beautiful thing the Romney family has done by embracing “the spirit of adoption.” What on earth is more beautiful? Shame on MSNBC for mocking this," the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee wrote on her Facebook page

– CNN's Josh Levs contributed to this report.

Filed under: Mitt Romney
soundoff (2,650 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Don't they have to attempt to play this off as a joke to save themselves as best they can. What other defense do they have? They have to make up something to save their souls, save their tainted reputations, save their careers, save their livlihoods...They will say anything at this point to restore themselves. In reality, everyone now knows what they stand for, who they are and what they represent. If you choose to watch MSNBC while these guys are air, you are supporting bigotry and racism by ilberals.

    January 1, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Ryan

    Amazing that NBC would never discredit the Democratic mayor of New York as being married to black woman and has a drug addicted black daughter. This country is so shot !

    January 1, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  3. Paul

    Typical "non-apology" by spinsters. This is a classic art form of placating the masses without really apologizing. Pay close to the wording of Obeidallah: "I apologize to the Romney family and especially the baby IF [my emphasis] any of them were offended by that joke." Really? "If" they were offended? So, in other words, the apology only stands IF they were offended. 'I don't really feel I did anything wrong; however, IF they were offended, then I apologize.' Unbelievable.
    Then, look at Pia's non-apology: "I absolutely did not intend to harm you but it SEEMS [my emphasis] that I have." Translation? 'I didn't do anything wrong, but it SEEMS like it might have bothered you.'
    When the celebrities and media elites who get busted saying stupid things start REALLY owning up to the gravity of their words and actions, then maybe we can have constructive dialog. Until then, we'll continue to pile up these morons on the scrapheap of stupidity.
    IF I offended anyone in this post, I'm sorry. Truly.

    January 1, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. Astou

    Meliisa Harris-Perry is a bully. What she did was to use her access to the media to bully a child and family. Bullying is just not relegated to schools. She is an example of what it looks like as an adult. If people had said nothing, she would've increase the bullying. She needs to sent to an anti bullying program. Bullies think their funny as well, to hurt people. Shame on her.

    January 1, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. jerrylax

    and who is the bigot? Yes,the usual liberal.

    January 1, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. Paul

    Its too bad that we have the 2 party political system causes a lot of problems. I believe in treating all people well ....its what Christ did and strives for us to do. I don't believe in politics .... politics cause war and strife.

    January 1, 2014 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Steve

    No bigots were fired in this act of bigotry.

    January 1, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. Kris

    MSNBC's anchors comments cannot be compared to Robertson and his racist rant and homophobic ridicule. The picture is odd with all of the lily white people and then a little black baby. I am glad someone adopted him, but I don't know if the Romney clan is doing him a service or a disservice. I believe in diversity, big time, but I sometimes wonder about the agenda of those white people who adopt black children. Just saying.

    January 1, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. Serge Storms

    The bar keeps getting lowered so we'll probably see more of this kind of nonsense in the future. Neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on stupidity.

    January 1, 2014 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  10. jane2014

    Melissa Perry is trying to portray ties with the Mormon community in order to excuse her comments, but her mother had left the Mormon church after her divorce and before she married Melissa's father. They are not Christian. She identifies as black and denies part of her heritage, as her mother is white. Her entire academic and professional life revolves around black studies. I cannot imagine becoming a professor of "white studies", or seeing the entire world through one aspect only: race. Doesn't life transcend race? She clearly has a chip on her shoulder.

    January 1, 2014 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  11. Metron

    They are only sorry the comments came out on the air. A liberal is only apologetic if it benefits their efforts.

    January 1, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. Bob Penn

    She is sorry she got called on it. She should be fired.

    January 1, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  13. Jman

    Hey Kris, you are a piece of Gar-bage. Sometime I wonder if abortion would have been a better choice for your mother.

    January 1, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  14. elvinmerij

    Lefties can be just as idiotic as righties. Just remember folks, whether the media is right or left, they are all - in the end - private enterprise.

    And in that sense, they all need to sell advertising.

    January 1, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. Crampon

    One indicator of a racist, is always having to apologize for racist remarks. Where there is smoke there is fire.

    January 1, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. GreginKS

    And I sure all you self righteous people have never even uttered anything so offensive...oh my, get over IT and yourselves!!!

    January 1, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. See Novak

    The hyphenated last name says it all.......

    January 1, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. StilettoMama

    Obama's Family Picture would have been the same, hello? He was raised by an ALL WHITE FAMILY, not his black family. Do you think anyone ever mocked his family pictures for looking the same way the Romney's does?

    You people who agree that it looks bad to have the Romneys adopt a black child are the same ignorant idiots who scream inequality when black children ARE NOT adopted. You're so blinded by your political views that you fail to recognize the love a family has for a child irrespective of their skin color. What about the white family who took in Michael Ohre? Where they wrong? What about Angelina and Brad, are they wrong? Just because someone does not share your political views does not make them less human to love a child and be blinded to their race. Shameful on MHP and her supporters!!

    January 1, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Ricker

    This dunce would have never of made this comment had Mr. Romney not been a Conservative White American...

    January 1, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. WTHWTH

    I'm sorry, but according to the rules of political correctness, no mere apology will suffice. MSNBC must fire everyone involved, destroy their careers, and ban them from television. Then MSNBC must apologize repeatedly and publicly, over and over again, until every professional victim feels that MSNBC has groveled sufficiently.

    January 1, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. frontgatee

    No need to apologize MSNBC. It was pretty damned funny.

    January 1, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. OK


    Hey Kris, you are a piece of Gar-bage. Sometime I wonder if abortion would have been a better choice for your mother.


    It probably would have been a good option for your mother too

    January 1, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. soabsurd

    I am so sick and tired of people claiming to be against racism or bigotry but being racist and biggots themselves. Just because you are one skin color doesn't give you a pass. How come Melissa HP or Obama never talk about their white background? It seems so divisive and hypocritical. We are all humans, we all love we all hurt and we all bleed red. Sure doesn't seem like the dream MLK talked about..

    January 1, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. deming

    Perry should be fired along with her cronies. You have NO standards at all. However you would more than likely be sued. My future daughter in law is black and I guess I would be called an angry old white man by you and all the MSNBC staff,

    January 1, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. felicia


    January 1, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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