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. Boo

    Who cares? Don't like what you're hearing or seeing? Your tv remote control has an on/off button.....and you can even change the station!!! What a concept!!!

    December 31, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh yeah, the way Faux News makes fun of Obama & his family everyday!!!
    Quite true, and although I have been known to try to make two wrongs into one right the fact is that they don't babe.
    Here's another fact, I think that we, the President's supporters, take pride in not having him stoop to Faux levels even though God knows it would warm my heart to no end if he just "went off" one day on [pick a Republican]. The same sort of "pride" translates to the news channels I choose to watch.
    If I wanted to see this type of uncalled for classlessness and mean-spiritedness directed at someone's child or the parents who were good enough to adopt said child I would watch Fox News not MSNBC.
    Maybe two wrongs do make a right but not in this case is all I'm saying.

    December 31, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  3. itwasntme904

    And we here Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc.... NO! How about Obama? No. Had this been Fox news commenting, there would be riots in the streets headed by the race baiter clowns.

    December 31, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. Jl Taylor

    Let me get this right. The same people who were defending the guy from Duck Dynasty are upset about a harmless
    joke about little black baby. Talk about hypocrisy.

    December 31, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  5. KingstonC

    What is so wrong about the jokes(comments)?? -a lot of dust about NOTHING PEOPLE.

    Happy New Year!!!

    December 31, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. Rick

    I dare the Parents of this adopted Black Child to drive through all the RED states and see what type of comments they get from the locals.

    December 31, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  7. Crispin

    She should be banned from television. Along with Glenn Beck for calling Chris Christie a "Fat nightmare" when obesity is a "disease" upon which the media always focuses. How are we going to turn a blind eye to liberal comments on MSNBC, yet we choose to ban people from A&E for speaking their mind? The liberal hypocrisy always amazes, as does the incessantly biased liberal media who selectively reports what they will in order to drive poll results.

    December 31, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  8. One one

    The only thing that would be worse would be if they hung up the picture and threw darts at it.

    In essence, that is exactly what they did, only they threw verbal darts.

    December 31, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  9. Frank

    The difference between a Conservative saying this and The Lib was simple...when the Lib does it, it's called a mistake. When a Conservative does it, it's called RACISM! One word for the double standard...Hypocracy!!

    December 31, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. libsbite

    MSNBC will be out of business by 2016….this was just a ratings grab because no one watches their crappy liberal station...

    December 31, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  11. NYVeteran

    There will always be that percentage of grandchildren that are going to vote democratic no matter what.

    December 31, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  12. NYVeteran

    I bet they had binders full of minorities that they went through before selecting that child.

    December 31, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  13. Converned

    When you mock a child that's about as low as you can go. Maybe someone at MSNBC should lose their job or at least be suspended. Let's see what happens.

    December 31, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  14. O'drama Ya Mama

    So Phil Robertson goes off about gays and blacks and the whole conservative base claims his first amendment rights should protect him. Not only did they want A & E to refrain from firing him but they didnt even think it was necessary for an apology, one which he did not give. Now I can guarantee the conservative base will be fired up about this and demand all those who participated in making fun of Romney's baby to resign and make a formal apology.

    December 31, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    MSNBC is absolutely, without question, the most vile, mean, and nasty excuse for a news network, in existence today.

    It is nothing but an attack dog, propagandist network that does nothing but attack its entire excuse for its existence.

    The only beneficial thing it demonstrate what is wrong with the Democratic Party.......clearly and with certainty.

    December 31, 2013 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  16. Concerned

    Sorry Dr. King, but this proves the liberal media still judges a person by the color of their skin.

    December 31, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Oh please. how is that racist what MSNBC said? They are correct. If that is racist then Foxnews is racist because people on Foxnews have made comments about Michael Jackson's kids. At least MJ have always shown he loves all groups unlike the Romney's. Yes, people are going to question the Romney's motives. People are not stupid.

    December 31, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  18. ALVA

    How far thou hast fallen on MSNBC along with your brethren the National News Media. Todays "journalists" are lower and less reliable now than the National Enquirer.

    December 31, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  19. Ian

    Pretty low for a news professional to do this but that being said I am sure they didn't mean any harm just jumping on the "nake fun of any republican and it's ok bandwagon".

    That being said what is up with the writer? The 1st and 3rd paragraph has identical sentences. Bad writing is very bad.

    "faced criticism after 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" 2x????

    December 31, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  20. Andy

    I confess the picture confuses me. I didn't look at the picture with preconceived notions about baby Kieran. However, since Kieran is a sufficiently unfamiliar name to me, I used the picture's blue for boys, pink for girls theme to make an inference about the baby's gender. My inference was incorrect. While it is no big deal, I am puzzled as to why the Romney family spent considerable effort color coding genders for this picture but did not do so for baby Kieran.

    December 31, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  21. The Dude

    Disgusting. MSNBC and it's parent company NBC/Comcast should be ashamed of themselves and fire the entire lot of those involved. Imagine the outrage of this had happened on Fox News. The internet would be on fire from the left. Disgusting.

    December 31, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. CNNUser64

    @scarf, the MSNBC hosts did not try to learn from their mistake. What kind of apology simultaneously justifies the joke by saying that they were only using the kid to mock the Republican National Convention. The apology portion goes on to say, but I'm sorry "IF any of them were offended."

    This kind of racially charged banter proves we need to move away from 24-hour news; these stations clearly have no news to report if they have time to make racially insensitive comments while hiding behind the guise of "But we swear, we're actually trying to end racial inequality, not make it worse." Pathetic, just pathetic.

    December 31, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  23. H

    It's absolutely ridiculous to say that someone posting a FAMILY photo – being proud and wanting to share their family and their love of their family with others – is being exploitative just because one of their family members happens to be African American. Get over yourselves!

    December 31, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  24. Sunny

    Where is Jesse Jackson and the Rev Al Sharpton? You can bet if this was a Republican comment they would be all over it, screaming racism. That being said, I am an adoptive parent to a Haitian child and find this comment totally offensive and inappropriate. They should be held accountable and fired for their derogatory comments.

    December 31, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  25. Brenda

    I few of the jokes went over the line. There isn't anything "progressive" about MSNBC or most Liberal "news" stations, they just like to brag that their is. If these were Republicans making fun they would be out stamping their feet and crying, demanding apoligies.

    December 31, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
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