December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
9 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 (2,649 Responses)
  1. erichx101x

    Poor child was adopted for political reasons. He'll understand when he gets older, and he'll resent it.

    December 31, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. NYNJCT

    Fire Harris-Perry, now!!!!!

    December 31, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Aerosgrl

    The whole reason they even included that pic for captions was because of this child's skin color... Which I find wrong.

    December 31, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. Becca Helen

    Republicans: THIS is what an authentic apology looks like. BTW......why not use the REPUBLICAN EXCUSE? It was a JOKE. Can't you people take a joke?

    December 31, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. Ellismoderate

    @NCIndependent, Nope, Perry had nothing to apologize for.

    December 31, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Ruth

    We have become a country of wimps. It seems that everything people say is now being scrutinized and they are asked to apologized for making a joke, it is pathetic. Are we that easily offended? Grow some and develop a backbone. Rush Limbaugh says offensive things on a daily basis, no one is asking him to apologize. It is just too much now.

    December 31, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. susan

    someone pointed out that the girls are wearing pink and orange and the boys are wearing blue. I went back and looked at the picture and now I am wondering, why is little Kieran Romney dressed in pink and orange?

    December 31, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. L Blansitt

    It is only racist when liberals say it is racist. What joke. Shame , shame , shame.

    December 31, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Name

    what kind of hicks dress alike for pics? move that along to Awkward Family Photos asap!

    Look at Romney's well exercised, fake, sociopathic smile.

    December 31, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. carlos suazo

    It is obvious that Harris-Perry is a racist because only a racist sees thing in black and white.

    December 31, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. Aerosgrl

    Liberals biggest hypocrites!

    December 31, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. Robert Martin

    That kind of stuff is never funny but we are also forgiving of immature minds shooting from the hip.

    December 31, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. BearCats4Ever

    @Johntonra, you might want to check to context before posting next? It was one of many of the most shared stories for the week through social media.

    December 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. frankiesweep

    Where's Rev. Al & Jesse???

    December 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. mary

    The problem is news is not news anymore… Its basically a talk show..
    I think 27-7 "news" has runs its course.
    Its a huge part of the problems we are having in society today..

    December 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. mcp123

    "So obsessed is she with talking down white republicans"

    You mean 99.9% of the party? If shoe fits... wear it. Her point is spot on.... what republicans can't face is the truth. Their party consists entirely of older WHITE men.

    December 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  17. brian

    not to be insensitive to this story, but reality check– if romney had become president, who really knows the full extent of damage he would have inflicted on the country.

    December 31, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. john

    adopt just for repub votes . Poor kid will have food & $$.

    December 31, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. Jerseypumasue

    Will D, maybe you would not take it as a joke had it been directly at you....the comments were totally inappropriate. period.

    December 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. loyalright

    What a Evil, Hateful, heart that lives inside Harris-Perry.

    December 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  21. CoffeeCritter

    You have to admit that photo is hilarious,begging for a caption. No wonder it went viral for comedy's sake.

    December 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. Glenn

    MSBC did ot make the comment, a commedian on MSNBC made the comment. Tired of the Fake out rage on the right and CNN. Everytime Rush Limbaugh makes a racist comment, the right rushes to his defense and says, "Well He's an entertainer" and everyone gives him a get out of jail pass. This whole thing is is just retribution for Kelly on FOX proclaiming a white Santa Clause! and She does represent Fox. Again a commedian made the comment, Not MSNBC. Stop faking the out rage. CNN is the real joke here.

    December 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. JohnB

    not the first time MHP has been insensitive to white people, she needs diversity training and I feel that she has been given enough breaks in the past for her bitterly divisive remarks. Its time that MSNBC pulls the plug on her show. I for one have lost all faith and confidence in her ability to provide objective journalism. When I see her face on the screen I switch the channel.

    December 31, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. DarqueSide

    Not a Romney fan in any way shape or form, but these remarks were classless and uncalled for.

    December 31, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  25. Terry in Florida

    So, what? Are we pretending not to know like everyone else that the kids' adoption was anything other than a publicity stunt?

    December 31, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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