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. DB

    MSNBC panelist comments were extremely offensive, vulgar and inappropriate, if GE had any courage, firings should follow...

    December 31, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  2. red

    thats not cool. now is the right time to be angry about insensitivity

    December 31, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  3. quinLee

    this is why if you are a "news" outlet you should stick to unbiased news reporting, and leave the entertaining to the entertainers.

    December 31, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  4. Juan in El Paso

    MSNBC on air talent are repressenative of thier audience, so let them be as hateful and vial as they wish. No need to appologies for being yourself.

    December 31, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  5. mainepotter

    Why don't the news channels' talking heads shut up 23/7 and find some real to report 1/7?

    December 31, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Glad to see MHP apologize, but I wish people would just think BEFORE they speak. Children are a blessing. How could that panel of adults–go there?

    December 31, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  7. Gene

    Two wrongs don't make a right but, to be "Fair & Balanced", I have never heard any of the talking heads of FoxNews criticize racially insensitive remarks made by hosts or any of their guest. At least those at MSNBC have the decency to publicly apologize. The same can't be said about Fox.

    December 31, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  8. DH

    Oh please people get over yourselves. One picture and comments about it will not change the obvious problems the repub party continues to have with minorities, women, gays, Hispanics, basically anyone who does not look like 99% of the Romney family.

    December 31, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  9. datay55

    Glad to see a solid majority condemning MSNBC for this insensitivity. I can't help but think of what the difference would have been had MSNBC had a picture of the Kennedy's or Kerry's with an adopted African-American baby. I doubt we would have heard anything but accolades. And I am thankful this didn't come from FOX. I can just hear the cries of "racist" rising from the left.

    December 31, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  10. Malory Archer

    pat f

    MSNBC should remove them from the air waves.
    Cruel, racist and insensitive comments pandering for laughs is inexcusable.


    Why? a.m. radio is chock-full of haters who spew round-the-clock hate at "liberals" and everyone else who doesn't share their rigid ideolgy, and there's an entire news network whose entire mission is to do nothing else 24/7. Then there's A&E.

    December 31, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    I like the way the kids have matching clothes.

    December 31, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  12. Rick

    I applaud that CNN host for having the integrity to point out the hypocrisy of MSNBC and those on the left that think it's ok for blacks to be able to say something but whites cannot say it without it being racist. Great job, bravo.

    December 31, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  13. Rakesh I

    I am a liberal, and I am totally disgusted by this behavior. There will always be haterz, and giving them a pass is detrimental to any kind of progress we will make as a society. I also love the fact that a needy kid was adopted. It doesn't matter what group they belong to, some people are just downright mean, and we should always call those people out.

    December 31, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  14. jw

    Joke? You do not talk about someones family. Especially for a political hack purpose!

    December 31, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  15. Mike Wallace

    Duck Dynasty patriarch makes racist remarks and is suspended = violation of free speech.

    comedians on MSNBC mock Romney and Republican party = MSNBC should be removed from the airwaves.

    Ah, the hypocrisy of conservatives and their tyrannical hatred of individual liberties.

    December 31, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  16. WES

    If these same mocking statements were made by conservatives, these "journalists" – and I use the term loosely, would be calling for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to stage protest marches. I have no use for MSNBC. Given their ratings, I am in the majority. These people need racism to continue, otherwise they'd be out of a job.

    December 31, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  17. mtskier

    I am liberal but did find it funny. However, I understand why people did find it upsetting and the segment should probably have not been aired. But the child is not old enough to be upset about it, we are too sensitive a nation and we are all different. We need to accept it and get over every time someone says something inappropriate as we all do make those mistakes.

    December 31, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  18. concernedGrndma

    Really exposes the hypocrisy of the liberal left, particularly the news media. Those bubble heads should be fired.

    December 31, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. Roger

    If Phil Robertson makes fun of a group of people it's free speech. If an MSNBC host makes fun of a group of people, it's outrageous.

    What a two-faced society America is.

    December 31, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  20. Terry B.

    When Republicans (i.e.: White People) make comments like that, they are suspended, scorned, attacked, and vilified. When Democrats say things like that, they are "temporarily frowned upon" and "tweet something". At least Republicans are smart enough and educated enough to make enough money to be able to adopt and support children of any color in need of help. Given that the Top 10% of income earners (White Republicans) bring in 90% of all Tax revenues to support the other 90% of Democrats (i.e. People of Color), the Fame Grabbers on MSNBC should be somewhat more supportive.

    December 31, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  21. Chaos

    What? Its "free speech" an "An opinion". Conservatives told us in the last two weeks that people on TV shows should be able to say anything they want without backlash.

    December 31, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  22. sloopt

    Dean Obeidallah is a comedian in his own mind, but in reality he is as humorless as a nun. He has an extremely thin skin when it comes to any perceived slight of Muslims but feels free to go "over the line" in his own clumsy commentary about anyone else.

    December 31, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  23. roger

    Once again MSNBC show how tasteless and ignorant their news people and management in general are. And then they wonder why they're in last place in the ratings?

    December 31, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  24. fed up

    Yea, and its the RIGHT that is labeled as racist???

    December 31, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  25. A Citizen

    Public figures are fair game. Especially politicians. Just look at all those ridiculous attack ads that run during election season that not only offend but are designed to demonize individuals. While it is open season on Mitt – after all he offended 47% of Americans during the last election – his family really should be off limits (just like Michelle and the girls should be). The faux outrage by the right just serves to give this nothing of an MSNBC talk show 3 minutes of fame and an uptick in ratings.

    December 31, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
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