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. hood3311

    Regardless of anything MSNBC has done in the past, this was nothing but a simple joke. This wasn't fueled by racism or even wanting to bash Romney.... The woman put a humorous spin on explaining the obvious that was unusual about the picture that was presented before her, and nothing more. It is not her fault that some people purposely chose to take that out of context... Some people just want a reason to throw the first stone and they are constantly on the lookout for imperfections to tear apart and judge, completely unsympathetic to the fact that we don't live in a perfect world.

    December 31, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    If this does not wake up the higher ups who run msnbc about what is common decency this what will. It is a beautiful
    family picture of a loving family. I bet if this had been a black family who had adopted a little white child nothing like this would happen. Shame on her and sham on msnbc!!!!

    December 31, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  3. Neitherblacknorwhite

    Tolerance of hatred is not a sign of tolerance.

    December 31, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Namemarcia Monroe

    Really?? Look on ANY of these news forums comment thread on ANY given day on ANY story and you see nothing but disgusting, shameful racist remarks and jokes about everything from dead kids to right to life to bashing Obama and 90% of these comments are left by conservatives and people who adore Mitt Romney. NOW some reporters made some on air jokes that are nothing compared to the constant spewing of racist hate left on these comment boards DAILY and you people have the audacity to be angry?? NOTHING BUT HYPOCRITES!!! It's so ridiculous it's sad. Pick a side. Do you want to be racist pigs or do you want to suddenly be appalled at the treatment of Mitts grandchild knowing you look at African American's as sub human depending how your feeling that morning? WHAT A JOKE!!

    December 31, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Neitherblacknorwhite

    Bigotry is not a characteristic of any particular race.

    December 31, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. zandhcats

    "She should have lose her job"

    Where are you after Fox has made so many falsely statements and insult comments about the current President for the past 5 years? Have the entire so called "news anchors" in Fox to lose the job? At least she apologized, but none of those liars make any attempt to apology to the President and his family.

    December 31, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. David

    Why is it hard to say what a beautiful family.

    December 31, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. wgf

    I have watched MHP's show a few times, and have always thought that she came across as a well educated and intelligent person.

    But this is inexcusable, and issuing an apology is not enough. If MSNBC wants to be a credible shill for the left's interests, then they have to drop her. Otherwise they descend to the level of Fox News, with no more credibility or moral authority than Sean Hannity.

    I didn't see this specific show, and I'm really baffled as to why this picture would have even been up for discussion. It's a simple, happy, family picture of someone who no longer has a political life. Why would the picture even be considered relevant ? It would seem that the sole purpose of presenting it on-air was to make disparaging and mean spirited comments. Even without the racially charged "jokes" this is something that was in very poor taste.

    As is often the case, it turns out that the comments say more about the people making them than they do about the people to whom they were directed.

    December 31, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Bonnie Povilaitis

    This is such a shame that a beautiful family picture of a loving family had to come by such a remark by a totally
    cruel show. Shame on her and shame on Msnbc. If this had been another race who had adopted another race
    i don't tlhink this would have happened.How far left does a company have to go before the higher ups understand that
    it is not acceptable behavior. Best wishes to the whole family and that beautiful baby.

    December 31, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. Fish

    She's right that kid sticks out like a turd in the punchbowl no other way to say it. We can tap dance around and be politically correct yet in that picture it is apparent there is a difference. I applaud the family for adopting a child regardless of race, as there is such great need of loving homes. This child and many more are needing a little open-mindedness the Romney's have shown they are true Christian people by walking the talk!!!

    December 31, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. Fred

    Oh for God's sake people, it's a JOKE. Get a life. Still, I get a delicious sense of schadenfreude watching lefties hoist on their own racial petard.

    December 31, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. tawanna

    The employees of MSNBC who took part in this and made ANY NEGATIVE COMMENTS on the air should be FIRED.

    PIA Glen and the other guests SHAM ON YOU ... YOU ALL ARE PATHETHIC.

    Why make the baby the butt of your offensive joke

    December 31, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Annabelle

    One more thing. While so many black children are born to single mothers, I ask you, where are their fathers? Make you a bit uncomfortable? THAT'S what you should be talking about. Or, how about hundreds of thousands of little, and not so little babies that are aborted every year? You should be made to watch those videos! So much easier to make fun about successful families than what might possibly be going on in your own families. Head count! No wonder you are making fun of others – it's to take the spotlight off of your own lives. So thanks to this MSMBC offensive and A&E's being overthrown by millions and millions of people, you can see where there are SO many people who are fed up with political correctness, which is hogwash or BS, either way, take your fat cat mentality and self imposed pity and actually do something that will better yourself and help you be a part of the solution and not a huge part of the problem. Not everyone has had an easy life. If you want to honor your ancestors how about making them proud to call YOU family? Get off the pity-pot and make you into a better you. Then and only then will you ever begin to understand why in the heck your Creator put you in this part of his vineyard. Would you rather be back where life right now is horrific! Which can be said of most of us who had ancestors who came here with one set of clothes a one pair of shoes. For those of you who believe in God while I doubt you are, Maybe you could ask Him what great expectations He has for you to do! Anyone can kick a man while he's down, or make fun of a man trying to live a life worthy of his God. For any of you who don't believe in God – there are no death-bed atheists. Instead of opening your mouth to offend God and your brother, how about giving a brother a hand up (not a hand out) and honoring your God by the way you treat others. I doubt you know what shame and offensiveness might mean in the sight of God. If you do love God, remember the remarks Jesus said to Peter. 3 times as so to impress the importance of His meaning. "Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep". "Peter, lovest thou me?" Yea Lord thou know east I love thee." "Peter, lovest thou me". "Feed my sheep? When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren!

    December 31, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. 1CDO_RLI

    I am a Conservative, and there are a large amount of us that are not Racist. Many, not all liberals, should look past their own short sighted view of the world. This was not a joke of hers, this came from the heart. There are those liberals who would mute our free speech, of take away our rights, as along as it does not fit their agenda. Once in a while they get caught in the same traps they set.
    Her comments, are becoming typical of those who don't like Conservatives. Try to make Conservatives look stupid for their views.

    December 31, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  15. Joan

    As a grandmother of 2 mixed grandsons, I took offense to the remark. It is hard enough to raise children without adults acting like children. I did not support Romney in the presidential election and would not do so today, but his son and daughter in law showed a lot of class bringing the baby into their home and loving the child the parents should. God knows we need more people like that couple.

    December 31, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  16. ENI

    There is never, EVER a good excuse to ridicule a child.

    December 31, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  17. Vato Loco

    What an insensitive bunch of fake commentators! They should be fired immediately! No questions asked! In a time when race shouldn't be an issue anymore, the puns continue....as a minority, it bothers me....but, you say something about being gay not right, and you get fired by A&E...Cmon msnbc! You are losing your credibility as a "news" site, and with this, more of a tabloid....And you will lose advertising dollars over this....We have choices pendejos!

    December 31, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  18. Liberal flip

    By one else notice the liberals have flipped? It used to be liberals were against the establishment, against big government etc at least that's what they claimed in the 60s and early 70s. Look at some old news footage of liberal protests and you'll see they look an awful lot like those of the Tea party, libertarians and republicans today.

    The parties have swapped sides as they did once before.

    Don't believe me. Well what party was Abraham Lincoln? Yep republican! The democrats are all about making you stand in line and get what you get. 60's liberals would have hated today's democrats. This poke at diversity is just another example of how things have changed w the democrat party. I speak with EX democrats daily who are defecting in droves!

    December 31, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Corey

    So this was racist but what Phil Robertson said about the civil rights era was perfectly innocent? Uh huh.

    December 31, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  20. boof

    she was spot on. the romneys are waste's of space.

    December 31, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Traci

    Hey they even dressed him different....Why is he the ONLY BOY dressed in peach/pink, while ALL the other boys have on blue?

    December 31, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. Devon

    The biggest racist is the one that constantly calls people racist. It's on their radar so much they can't help but see the world in black, white and brown.

    On another note I'm going to make an observation, wow! That's a lot of kids!!! With the matching shirts and dresses, they look like clones!

    December 31, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. DrDSW4

    Did you watch the program. She seemed to be complimenting families who adopt children, especially those of mixed or other races. The right wing turned a positive into another fabricated insult and the allegations were picked up by CNN which seems more and more to be FOX like and not check facts, evidence, or investigate truth. Shame on CNN for again misreporting by putting another false scandal via allegation into the conservative ethosphere and not reporting factually, accurately and objectively after verifying the "story."

    December 31, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. jane mansfield

    All the gaffs and firings should people on notice about making such racist remarks. But, no. It's just the way MSNBC is and shows how blacks are more racist than anyone. Does she also make on aire jokes about gays? No. Why not?

    December 31, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. Neitherblacknorwhite

    All should use the "turn the table test ".
    In other words "do on to others as you you'd have them done to you (or said about your race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation).
    If you need to denigrate others to elevate your self, then you are the ones that need the help.

    Again, tolerance, like bigotry, are not one way streets!

    December 31, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
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