December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
9 years 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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker'] [twitter-follow screen_name='KilloughCNN']

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 (2,649 Responses)
  1. Suzy Mack

    I saw the show. They all laughed at Romney and made malicious comments. Check please.

    December 31, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  2. Name

    Republicans have been doing the same, but can't take it back

    December 31, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  3. Mickey Glvoer

    How about the fact that a beautiful baby was given a chance at a good life????? Racism will never go away....too many racists born and developed....too bad we don't have pills for that!!

    December 31, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  4. Uncle Eddie

    MSNBC is a dying and desperate institution. The free market will take care of it shortly.

    December 31, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  5. Name

    we all carry the same blood no matter what color are we..

    December 31, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  6. Tom

    DrDSW4, Really, were we watching the same clip. You cannot be serious. Go back and watch it again. The panel was singing the Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the other" That is sick and really disturbing. Furthermore why would each of the panelist apologize for their actions, if this was a "fabricated insult".

    December 31, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  7. Igor

    The incident creates a hideous dilemma for the left – fire the bigots who perpetrated the hate language, or admit once and for all the obvious-to-any-dispassionate-observer unavoidable fact that there is a double standard in regard to the exercise of free speech in the media: the right is castigated for legitimate exercise of free speech while the left can say anything without consequence. Fire them now MSNBC or admit your bias.

    December 31, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  8. Loki II

    Say bye bye Ms. Nerdland. MSNBC is sharpening their knives. Maybe the "Coin Show" needs a new host.

    December 31, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. Bruce in VA

    Ho hum. Boorish racist behavior from the liberal left. I'm shocked. They can all take a hike. Romney's family does more to help others every day than the entire left establishment.

    December 31, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. scranton

    MSNBC is the hate network. Nothing new here.

    December 31, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  11. Drew

    When the liberals aren't aborting the babies they are making fun of the people that have adopted them.

    December 31, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  12. Nola Annie

    This is despicable. The comments are racist, and a Twitter apology is a cop out. A child who needed a home and a family now has one, but it's fodder for CNN because someone political is involved. If President and Mrs. Obama adopted a child of different ethnicity, and similar comments were made, this would erupt in a politic, vitriolic WWIII. Hypocritical and racial. I am ashamed on behalf of CNN.

    December 31, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  13. Comme

    Melissa Harris-Perry proves yet again she is a racist. NBC allows her to spread her racist message almost daily because NBC is racist. When will NBC come under new management and clear up that network and accept ethics and morals into its business practice?

    December 31, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. Kevin Spencer

    Here is something for commentary; Had this photo existed and been publishing during the Republican primaries, he would have NEVER been the nominee.

    December 31, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Fairness4All

    I assume Jesse Jackson's request for a meeting with MSNBC will be forthcoming shortly.

    December 31, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  16. Name

    Whatever. I feel sorry for that baby.

    December 31, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. Thomas E

    I thought it was funny. Guess Romney figured somebody had to clean the house when he got old. lol

    December 31, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  18. nar

    If some fox news pundits made similar comments about a democratic family we'd never hear the end of the racism claims. Disgusting hypocrites.

    December 31, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  19. FrankO

    More back-peddling swine.

    December 31, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  20. JJ

    Mitt Romney is a loser. Who really cares... Todays news is Joke news

    December 31, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  21. William Jackson

    Got to love the false outrage from the righties who have no problem calling the president and his family much worse, and with no apologies at all. Blacks more racist than Whites what a hoot, humans are no more racist than other humans if red yellow white or black to claim otherwise is racist. These remarks while intended as humor are hurtful and should never have been uttered.

    December 31, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  22. Rodger Isetts

    I think the comments Melissa Harris-Perry made about the adopted black child are totally outrageous and she should be terminated for her comments. How can we bring people together when prominent people on television like her make a joke about an issue like this. All this does is give people ammunition to use against race relations and unity. She should be the first one to praise things like this so we can foster better relations with each other. The apology is too little and not sincere.

    December 31, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  23. JM

    Politicians as well as their families become targets of varying definitions once the decision is made to run for office.

    How confusing life must be for those in the middle, who are not remotely smart or driven enough to get to the nice pole of our society, yet not ignorant (or happy) enough to find themselves at the other pole.

    December 31, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  24. whidbeytom

    This is the type of blather that conservatives constantly get from MSNBC. It happens so often that one can only believe that it is planned. It's time for MSNBC to clean house.

    Political discourse is at an all time low in our country. MSNBC lowers the bar again.

    December 31, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  25. craigorie

    Big deal. The kid does stand out. What a sensitive over-reactionary country we've become.

    December 31, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
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