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. Nick

    How low do liberals have to sink to attack a family that is doing something good? How many of these "panelists" have ever done something as wonderful as adopting a minority child and giving that child a chance they might not otherwise have? This is one more reason not to watch MSNBC. God bless the Romneys!

    December 31, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  2. Greg Walker

    A firestorm of controversy erupts after literally dozens of people watched these comments on MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  3. jcm

    Saw Chris Rock the other day......PC people should really get a life.

    December 31, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  4. Normal In NH

    Well, it certainly appears the elite left isn't quite so elite after all. Since it was said on MSNBC, it only offended 144 viewers...

    December 31, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  5. wakeup

    what – no suspension ?

    December 31, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  6. Graeme from Ottawa

    One can not ignore the contrast of a small black child in a sea of white children, the photo did seem a little odd and the sesame street reference was humorous. Bottom line that is one lucky child to be adopted in to such wealth and privilege.

    December 31, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  7. Bob Ramos

    These were thoughtless comments by two individuals and not MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  8. lost73

    who are the sponsers for this show? they are complacent if they don't act.

    December 31, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  9. laura

    Poor taste and judgement..what elese would you expect from them..

    December 31, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  10. Encore

    Just what do you expect from a hateful, smug group of miscreants? Fairness? Respect? Honor? Empathy? MSNBC is basically a hatefully, deeply biased organization bent on character assaination of anyone with an opposite views or beliefs which they will not tolerate.

    December 31, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  11. Z_2k

    Ms. Harris-Perry and the Al Sharpton are the two most racially biased people on television. I used to like to watch Chris Mathews, but no longer. MSNBC has made racial bias it's mission, worse than political bias.

    December 31, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  12. thewiz_71

    As a lefty, and proud of it, I gotta say that this is absolutely disgusting. ON a different note, I wonder how Romney et al squares this with Mormonism, considering their theological view of people of African descent.

    December 31, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  13. Onward

    Imagine....just imagine.....if this had been reversed and the adoption had been into a liberal Democrat's family and the Fox News commentators had made these comments. There would be no half-hearted apologies; there would be firings.

    December 31, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  14. farmerjeani

    aren't the people condemning these comments the same people who are defending the Duck Dynasty guy who thinks black people were real happy working in the cotton fields?

    December 31, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  15. thewiz_71

    By which I mean, the panelists' comments were "disgusting". My wording was not entirely clear.

    December 31, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  16. ray

    Hey, since you hate Perry so much for pointing out racism, why don't you do it instead of acting like it doesn't exist?

    December 31, 2013 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  17. ArchieLeech

    The MSNBC panel was joking, they apologized, and I doubt they'll make these comments again. By the way, they represent politics who actually fight for mothers of all income levels, and the rights of people of all skin colors. What's the excuse of the people on Fox News?

    This has been a gift from White Santa.

    December 31, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  18. TONE

    I am sorry if i offended anyone but the Romneys have a political motive posting this photograph i do not trust any Republican.

    December 31, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  19. Shane

    I get MSNBC and The View confused all the time. Real news is dead. You're better off watching Jerry Springer, at least you know what you're getting.

    December 31, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  20. Louis

    I cringed at this. Shameful. Just shameful.

    December 31, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  21. Norman

    Yes, these comments were probably in bad taste and representative of the snarky national dialogue (if such lightweight news making can be considered dialogue). On the other hand, rather than call for firing folks and starting a national uproar as might happen with other victims of misplaced comments, I am guessing the Romney family will opt for a classy response.

    December 31, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  22. may40

    Well we now know who the real bigots/racists are...Obama's people, that's who!!! The Democrats have always been and history has shown that they are the biggest racists. They enjoy keeping people in ignorance and chains.

    December 31, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  23. John

    The hate from MSDNC is their MO. I try to keep up with all the different networks and nothing compares to the hate from this network. The people who hire their talent seems to have a problem. Either that or they just prefer haters.

    December 31, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  24. Bill C

    More proof that liberals are the biggest bigots alive. Conservatives would applaud such a move, not ridicule it.

    December 31, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  25. sportsmedicine

    Anytime Ive listened to Perry's show, she turns everything into white racism. Its all the white mans fault, and Democrats need to be elected to wrong a racist america. Its the same theme on every show.

    Its no wonder MSNBC's ratings are in the toilet. Thats the same place these liberal commentators get their ideology.

    December 31, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
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