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 CNN.com.)

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. Disgusted

    I can't believe these folks would stoop to making fun of a child's race just to get a cheap laugh and make themselves more entertaining (in their eyes...) on a fluff news show. Shame on you, MSNBC, and I'm glad I don't watch your racist network – doesn't look like I'm missing anything, anyway.

    December 31, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Art

    MSNBC will try anything to obtain higher ratings, shame on them.

    December 31, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. will

    Ill guess the Romney's don't follow the true teachings of the Mormon Church. Look it up what the Church thinks of Blacks

    December 31, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Smeagel4T

    Good of MSNBC to apologize. Never see that from Fox.

    December 31, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Keith

    Where is Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, The NAACP? Oh yeah, only when a conservative god fearing person speaks their mind do we here from them. Typical!

    December 31, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Ben Daviss

    Seriously? This is "the most racist thing you've ever heard"? "Putting down" the black baby? The comments weren't racist. No one demeaned the baby. This is hypersensitivity run wild. Get a grip, people. There are real events to think about, not this phonied-up stuff peddled by a few people looking to score political points or prove how sanctimonious they are.

    December 31, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Name

    These people will do anything to get elected. This still won't get him the minority vote.

    December 31, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Jake

    Why is a company like Microsoft still associated with NBC?

    December 31, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. BB

    MSNBC is SO liberal is is now attacking an infant & his parents. I have white family members who have adopted black children.Love is the only motive.There are thousands of children in state care,most are not white. That is just the way it is. If a couple want to adopt a baby, without spending several thousand dollars...go to state child welfare. The heart of a child is the same.They all have the same needs. If one would choose to go over seas for or locally adopt privately It would be over $20,000/$30,000 putting most deep into debt., Save the money for the child's collage.These children in our family have brought countless joy and color means nothing.

    December 31, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. AH

    This is such crap! The GOP rallies around all the stupid stuff that comes out of their mouth everyday! No one ever apologizes, no one! Yet when a joke is made about Mr. 47% and the GOP all of a sudden they need to apologize! Please!

    December 31, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Name Mary

    I don't get it. Why the huge uproar?

    "Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?"

    Ummm. . . why was that offensive?

    December 31, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. GLJ

    If she had been on FOX the Democrats would be demanding her job.

    December 31, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Kelly Schofield

    Some of the apologies were sincere and well intentioned. As one who has said stupid things in public and private, I can certainly admire real regret.

    December 31, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  14. JustinP

    You mean granddaughter, not "grandson"...

    December 31, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  15. Stephen Mc

    This averse publicity is good for MSNBC, the stations ratings are under the sink, at least with this, people are talking about them.

    December 31, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. DarkPoet

    Yes lets continue to watch MSNBC.. just more proof that the liberal left elitist are just as bad as the conservative right elitist.

    Lets eliminate them both and actually watch this world start to get better.

    December 31, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Amy

    I wonder if they would have had a quote from the bible instead of a Sesame St song, would it have been okay? Personally I think the MSN people who did this suck.

    December 31, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. tina

    A&E censored a man for his religious believes I think this is far far worse and she should be fired for crossing the line. This is an innocent child that they were making fun of how r we suppose to show our kids bullying is wrong if we allow them to get away with this.

    December 31, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Name

    I'm African American and I didn't appreciate the comments as well. But I will not turn this story into a Democratic or Republican story!

    December 31, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Jane

    These comments expressed on the air are a disgrace. This show should be cancelled. A little baby who is loved and wanted is a good thing. Making fun of a baby because of his race is a disgrace!!! Who cares who his grand parents are? He is a little baby who is loved. What is the world coming to when they go this far???

    December 31, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. Pete

    Imagine the firestorm had the elder Romneys made their Christmas photo without their children's adopted black child in the image! Liberals are just so predictable... and sad.

    December 31, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. CryBabies

    @ Republican who supports President Obama....Its not a joke...its mean spirited and strikes at the core of one of the most devisive issues in our history. And it matters even more that this was initiated by an African American jounalist(being generous on the last word). This is not MHP's first jab at promoting racism. I guess it gives her job security as sad as that is. MSNBC just cannot get out of its way and continues to shoot itself in the foot with program hosts like MHP , Bashir, Shultz....etc

    December 31, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. Josh

    It's sad they would say something like that. Just three weeks ago my sister and her husband adopted a little African American boy. He is 3 and is buddies with their other children already. I was thinking it could be hard to like him as much as my other nieces and nephew, but already I couldn't imagine the family without him. It doesn't matter about color or race the only thing that matters is love. I think this host needs a break and should be off the air for a while...

    December 31, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. bob

    MSNBC needs to do a serious house cleaning for 2014. They have employed so many disgrace far left radical journalists.

    December 31, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. likeAplan

    I"m very to hear the comments made by MHP (she is also multi-racial, and I"m a Black man saying this). She should be suspended and reflect on her comments. I don't support the Romney's politically, but their adoption should be praised not mocked!

    December 31, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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