December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
8 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. shawbrooke

    What a double standard. If any Republican had made these comments, the news would never be done reporting the comments and You Tube would be humming. Apparently different standards are applied to the media.

    December 31, 2013 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  2. FredKelly

    Only MSNBC could look at that family picture and extract racial bigotry.

    December 31, 2013 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
  3. Ruby Russell

    I didn't like any of the comments. One of these things is not like the others; Can you imagine Kanye West and Mitt Romney as in-laws? The panelist making jokes about the infant standing out....none of these should have been said! I just don't know what is wrong with certain people. This is insensitive. I have a daughter who looks white, she is bi-racial and we received some very cruel and stupid remarks! I am offended!!!

    December 31, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  4. Lewis Craig

    Hopefully the child will grow up to be our 3rd or 4th black president.

    December 31, 2013 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  5. Richard

    MSNBC are liberals. Only they would use something like this in this way. Enough said.

    December 31, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  6. Edwin

    The joke was worse than tasteless. It was utterly racist, cloaked in the guise of humor.

    December 31, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  7. john

    Gads, now msnbc is getting like fox news. just what we need, classless media. Time for real news and stop with the bashing. If this keeps up I'll just start playing classical, and jazz tapes instead of the tv.

    December 31, 2013 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  8. Alan

    This is lite fair for those people at that network. Racism, Bigotry, and pure hatred of all who have a different opinion. It's on display everyday and waived like a flag. Just imagine the coverage if a Fox commentator said something about Hillary Clinton like the that bigot Bashir did about Palin. It would still be on the front page. Pure hypocrisy.

    December 31, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  9. commonsense

    Merry Christmas. I would like to know how many black people adopt white babies. Anyone who adopts a child of a different color(black or white) are true saints. The majority of white people I know are not biased or bigoted. I could not say that 40 years ago. Obviously the Romneys are not. The people on MSNBC are the Jesse Jackson's of TV. Reverse descrimination is rampant in the press and in politics. These disgusting human bigots cause problems for those that aren't. It would be nice to have these MSNBC bigots look at themselves, but their stupidity and arrogance hinders any hope . It takes people not watching them to make the difference. The cause of evil is evil itself.

    December 31, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  10. Oldtimer

    As a Democrat I am offended. It seems that disrespect, lack of honor, callousness and poor taste can be found on both sides of the isle. What is happening to our country? This kind of behavior is found in Congress, in the news media, Op Eds, and on the street. Have we no shame? Do we not care about anyone besides ourselves? Is this what we have came to be? A people that has no respect for others? I am very discouraged when I hear and see these things.

    December 31, 2013 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  11. No one

    I'm a little more curious why anyone cares about Romney in the first place. Then again they still think letting Palin bring down the collective IQ of human kind is acceptable I suppose.

    December 31, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  12. Joel proud activist and liberal

    One unfortunate comment completely blown out of proportion

    December 31, 2013 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  13. Roderick

    My first thought was that the baby is going to be one lucky child ( because of the Romney money, not because it's a white family...wanted to make that clear ). Second, I like MHP and she nor the shows on MSNBC are racist, bias politically, yes, but CNN has become that way as well. Lastly, I think it's not smart to touch sensitive subjects like this on national TV no matter what your intentions are ( in baseball we call this an unforced error ). I applaud The Romney family for adopting this child and potentially changing the trajectory of her life for good. I just hope the photo was not an opportunity for Mitt to rehabilitate his image after his racist comments during the election, but I am sure he wouldn't do that.

    December 31, 2013 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  14. zanduff

    This just shows that acceptance, race-blindness and optimism are three more things America missed out on when a small
    minority pushed Romney into second place in the last Presidential Election.

    We all lost!

    December 31, 2013 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  15. Airtuan

    MSNBC is a classless TV channel that represents the political left. People should not be surprised what have been coming out from that station. Just look at the lineup that they have on that channel, no wonder everything show on that channel are just garbage and tasteless. Just to show what the left is all about!!!

    December 31, 2013 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  16. a slozomby

    hmmmm where are the firings and indefinite suspensions....

    December 31, 2013 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Mark has no character defending this

    December 31, 2013 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  18. Matt

    Mitt Romney is far from my favorite person, but this is disgusting.

    December 31, 2013 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
  19. Paul in liberal MN

    Used to watch MSNBC is getting more popular.

    December 31, 2013 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  20. Mari

    Again, CNN great job putting on the news that matters the most to the people!

    December 31, 2013 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  21. Grandpa David

    The worst people settle to the bottom and MSNBC is the bottom. Scarbrough sold his soul to be there. And should try to float out of there.

    December 31, 2013 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  22. Pk duster

    All of the hate mittens when runining for prez he hated blacks may a some respect and a heart good for the family

    December 31, 2013 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  23. Thomas Adams

    Once again, MSNBC's staff and management show their true colors. When anything similar happens at other media outlets, MSNBC calls for people to be fired (at a minimum). At MSNBC one is promoted.

    December 31, 2013 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  24. Steve

    If you see race everywhere you look, you are a racist. If you notice race everywhere you look, you are a racist. If you mention race every time you open your mouth, you area racist.

    December 31, 2013 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  25. Harold Reed

    If you are a liberal, blatant racist statements are a joke. If you are not a liberal, anything you say or do is racist and a crime against humanity.
    Liberalism = live life life a hypocrite.

    December 31, 2013 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
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