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. Cascade

    I'm not a republican and I think that MSNBC is worse than FOX on the other side of the spectrum.

    December 31, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  2. Hank

    Typical liberal agenda. We can insult the right, but by god don't you insult the left! MSNBC,,,,nothing but a glorified TMZ.

    December 31, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  3. Lee

    This is just another example of why I don't watch MSNBC or FOX News. Neither "so called news network" reports the news. Both of these organizations are mouth pieces for 2 opposing political parities. Why people watch I have no idea. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

    December 31, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  4. buddy

    So she actually points out the minority in the picture ?!?!?! Liberals should be fuming over this but alas they cannot because their soul has been sold to MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  5. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Nobody, and i mean not one soul should be shocked by this. The liberal left have been doing this for the past 30yrs. Black Americans had better jump ship. 50% of African Americans, are really republicans at heart. But they feel the need to stick with the left nomatter what.and thats a shame.

    December 31, 2013 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  6. Doreen Engel

    Thanks for following this Melissa. I tried to get an account so I could post my comments at and I wasn't successful. Can you check that out? I hope they aren't keeping people,from posting.

    I wanted to ask who decided to have the photo be a focal,point and how long the panelists had to consider their response to it. It is shameful that people are paid for mockery. If they'd struggled with infertility themselves or were aware of the passionate discussions about inter-racial adoption they wouldn't laugh.

    I would have expected thoughtful adults to quickly vetoed the suggestions that any comments about this,photo,would be funny. And I would,like,to see how they would
    feel if their family's holiday photos became a subject for mockery.

    December 31, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  7. lmc3

    Young children of famous people should be strictly off the news media table.

    December 31, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  8. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    God bless msmbc.they need it.

    December 31, 2013 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  9. Marty

    In response to Jolat
    "Nobody watches MSNBC. it's the only way they get any attention. However, now this child will have a chance for a good life instead of being stuck in the system".

    Yes, smart and sophisticated people watch not only MSNBC but get their news from many different news organisations so that they may have a better perspective of world matters. We all know that Fox news has the greatest ratings but then again, Miley Cyrus is at the top of the record charts.

    December 31, 2013 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  10. soul68

    For those of you whining about how if a white Republican had done it "they would be all over it".... what do you think is happening here? People ARE all over it. You act like someone is getting away with something. Are you upset the outrage isn't enough? That maybe we should kill the people that said this? Would that go far enough for you?

    Geesh, the false persecution complex of people on the right is ridiculous.

    December 31, 2013 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  11. Helen Troy

    she is just a racist.. stay where no one hers ya!!

    December 31, 2013 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  12. Mike White

    guess it is time for them to park their high horse for awhile

    December 31, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  13. John

    Seems to me, we have no identified the TRUE racists.

    December 31, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  14. CombatVet

    Come on CNN, have Anderson call this what it is: Racism! Be fair and balanced. Is Piers going to have a special??

    No difference here with the comments from the Duck Dynasty except that those were more juicy to report on as it was a white guy who likes hunting being anti-gay and racist; but nook, it is ok for Apia to be racist and attack this happy and wholesome family who saved a child's life!
    Shame what media in the US has come to. Going back to my radio and NPR!

    December 31, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  15. txman67

    Stay classy MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  16. bbb

    Why do leftists always feel they have a free pass to be racist? This story explains a lot about MSNBC's ratings.

    December 31, 2013 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  17. upstate cuz

    Making fun of a little kid's skin color on a family Christmas card tells you everything you need to know about about the GE/NBC corporate culture.

    December 31, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  18. Stuffit

    Amazing how many clueless liberals jump to MSNBC's defense in these comments. It gives one a sense of the hypocrisy that is the hallmark of the liberal mindset as well as the hate and bigotry that is liberalism.

    December 31, 2013 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  19. Kain

    I still can't believe no one has called for Harris-Perry termination after the reverse racist comment she made on her show awhile back.

    December 31, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  20. Hazel

    If Phil Robertson had said this (and he has an adopted grandchild of color as well), Liberals would be screaming HATE at the top of their lungs. Why does everyone choose to ignore such statement or simply say they weren't understood or no offense was intended and get away with it? Such a double standard in this society.

    December 31, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  21. Kevin

    When you drag children into anything with the intention of mocking, you need to be fired. This is MSNBC though, which has destroyed the reputation of all of NBC news, which I once watched regularly, and now won't even watch Meet the Press. Where is the ACCOUNTABILITY for anything anymore.

    December 31, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  22. Jim McClaim

    "It's OK to joke about a Black kid if it is done by a Liberal."

    I think the entire point of the article is that it wasn't okay. Try to keep up.

    December 31, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  23. @RI_Roger

    MSNBC hosts, commentators and contributors know exactly what they were saying and doing. Shock TV at its worst. No apology can be acceptable when the intent is planned. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube and you don't like the taste, there's no putting it back..

    MSNBC must severe their ties with Harris and the entire panel. Secondly, they needs to come out and condemn this vile behavior going forward. True Americans have had enough of this behavior. Those who condone it are the bigots and should be publically held accountable.

    December 31, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  24. Tony T

    Let's see how deep the liberal media will try to bury this story. And the democratic progressive liberal's claim and want us to believe that the Tea Party is racist...maybe they should be a mirror. They should all be fired. A man's family should be off limits even for a pathetic news media like MSNBC. Where is Al Sharpten, Brother Rangel, and the rest of the black leadership 🙂

    December 31, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  25. Bob

    Some people are just so full of hate and racism. MSNBC needs to replace a few members of their staff.

    December 31, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
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