December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
7 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 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 (2,649 Responses)
  1. Gwen

    When I first listened to the commentary this morning, I became physically sick to my stomach. How could anyone make fun of a child, for the sake of political commentary. I wrote a note on Facebook to the lead commentator. These people are not journalists: they are commentators. I don't care what anyone thinks of Mitt Romney. Common decency and respect was violated by the network. I think an anti-defamation suit should be filed against MSNBC by the Romney's. I will not ever watch MSNBC again because I was insulted by their behavior.

    December 31, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  2. Drc

    Brought to you by the hypocrisy on the left. More importantly, people actually watch MSNBC?

    December 31, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  3. Matt

    The true comedy is in Mitt Roney's tweet – who cc's anyone in a tweet?

    December 31, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  4. Don Draper

    Fox News = MSNBC = lunacy

    December 31, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  5. Gregg

    These people are really disgusting and incensitive. But pretty typical of the kind of crap that MSNBC tries to pass off as "journalism"

    December 31, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  6. abby1

    It is shameful that they mock this child and the family that adopted him. They should all be reprimanded.

    December 31, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  7. uncdig

    They need to be fired. The left can't have different rules than the right

    December 31, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  8. bee

    We are going backwards INSTEAD of moving FORWARD :->

    December 31, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  9. Roberto Valenzuela

    Throughout the years, MSNBC has draped itself with "the protect-the-minority flag"... yet, as a minority myself, more often than not, what I can truly see is a bunch of elitists who think they are above criticism who represent nobody but themselves... and some obscure causes who undermine the advances of minorities in the freest nation in the world.

    Quite often, these elitists side (and subtlety support) with the enemies of freedom and the USA.

    December 31, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  10. Steve1

    It's ok if a member of the Christian Party (Duck Dynasty and A&E) comes down on gays and blacks but god forbid if someone jokes about a Conservative's family. Get a life folks.

    December 31, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  11. Jeff from Columbus

    Racism is racism, regardless of your political ideology. And, yes, it is possible for a black person to be racist as Melissa Harris-Perry has demonstrated.

    December 31, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  12. Roberto Valenzuela

    Throughout the years, MSNBC has draped itself with "the protect-the-minority flag"... yet, as a minority myself, more often than not, what I can truly see is a bunch of elitists who think they are above criticism; they actually represent nobody but themselves... and some obscure causes who undermine the advances of minorities in the freest nation in the world.

    Quite often, these elitists side (and subtlety support) with the enemies of freedom and the USA.

    December 31, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  13. JY

    Fox is still the place to go to find hate in its clearest for and practiced openly, where the ignorant go to hear their heroes spit out hate on a regular basis.

    December 31, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  14. Reality Check

    Was there any point to the whole thing? Do they mock Pitt/Jolie or Madonna? The less critical will simply call it racism against whites which is a mistake since there are clearly whites with adopted children of various ethnic backgrounds that are not mocked including conservatives like Jon Huntsman. Whatever its intent, I fail to see any humor but I do see a great deal of hurt directed at a man who is currently a not in the public spotlight, his family in general and his grandchild specifically. Also what's with the lame "sorry if you were offended" non-apology? If you make an offensive comment apologize that you were being offensive not that the other person took it to be offensive or don't apologize at all because you clearly are not aware enough to know why you should be sorry in the first place.

    December 31, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  15. Mike Brown

    If you state your beliefs in a calm way, you are suspended, then roasted nationally by liberals. If you mock the loving actions of others, you can apologize "if the family was offended'. Apologizing if others are offended is simply a way of saying "I didn't do anything wrong, but I will say I am sorry".

    December 31, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  16. destroyerofeconomies

    I'm glad liberals feel confident enough now to say and do what they really feel.it exposes what hate filled,miserable people they are.

    December 31, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  17. Aaa comment.

    This is an outrage!!! They have sunk to a new low. Talk about racist!! I am an adoptive parent of 2 children who are not my race. I find this offensive and disgusting

    December 31, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  18. babooph

    Romney seems to have created a LOT of trust fund "moochers" ,retired at birth ,for all of us workers to support...

    December 31, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  19. leigh

    The truth is that liberals would be outraged if the parities in this were reversed. Such hypocrites.

    December 31, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  20. MN Guy

    A very weak non-pology for a tasteless and very directed insult to a family.

    December 31, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  21. ascpgh

    MSNBC has removed all inhibition in a last-ditch effort to add viewers. Frontal lobe injuries and old age do the same for other humans, they just don't broadcast their unfiltered drivel.

    MSNBC is like a cow taking a dump to draw more flies. They should just do an on-air invite of all their viewers to a Starbucks for a coffee so they could deliver their talking points more efficiently. Wouldn't have to pull chairs from too many other tables. It'd make room on the cable tier for another cooking or idiots buying homes for the first time network.

    December 31, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  22. NC

    Ha! The GOP Right implying that MSNBC and the Left are bigots is like the entire pot factory calling the kettle black!!! Gimme a freaking break!

    December 31, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  23. Dan

    The left is just SO angry at anyone who doesn't think like them

    December 31, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  24. Texas Gal

    Wonder what Phil Robertson has to say about the adoption.

    December 31, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  25. Everyone needs to relax

    More and more it seems so many wake up in the morning looking for a reason to be offended.
    Nobody was hurt and the comments were rather benign. Everyone needs to relax.

    December 31, 2013 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
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