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. VEW2012

    Sad to see the same people who were calling for the return of Phil on DD, are now demanding the head of another person who used a right to free speech. Also, it is sad for people, regardless of their belief, to think that speech that hurts another is okay, as it is not. Maybe the GOP should look at why a comment which was not meant to hurt....however did.

    December 31, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. ram

    I don't think anyone is saying it is okay. It isn't and they didn't say it was.

    December 31, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  3. JIM

    MSNBC has become insignificant as a "news" source. Don't worry about firing anybody.........because nobody is watching. Low class, low bandwidth....turn the page. MSNBC will cease to exist before you know it and become a footnote in broadcast history.

    December 31, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Intrigued

    So when will the NAACP and other liberal groups denounce the racist remarks made by MSNBC? Had this been Fox News, they would be roasting the host and panelists over an open fire. But I forgot, in America, only certain people can be racists and another group can never be racists, no matter what they say or do... What a shame.

    December 31, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  5. castaway

    We've all grown to expect things like this from MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. patrick harris

    Classless humor in my opinion, these companies MSNBC, FOX, and even CNN these days can not be taken seriously as news providers at this point...These days, I listen to music all day via headphones, no more a news junkie... its all nonsense delivered by nonsensical people.

    December 31, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. nuclear mike

    This is the Liberal News Media at its' best and exposes the real agenda underlying ALL the media's much for real human compassion regarding race if the Media's agenda is not satisfied first!!!

    December 31, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. Agnostickids

    Um yeah, the mormons (being a 7th generation one myself...happily no longer a member) DO believe that any color, any race, of any person is less than they are. In their book of mormon they state that as you become better and better, leaning toward God, you will become fair of countenance, which is most desirable to God. Yep, I don't blame Melissa for her quip. So what if it offended people – it's true, and if they don't know from experience, then they can keep their opinions to themselves. It's hard being a mormon; you have NO idea what this child will go through as it grows up black, regardless of it's "adopted" family.

    December 31, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. SG

    I think better than an apology would have been to avoid preaching hate and filth, hidden behind a ruse of comedy. Had the tables been turned, and a white person done the same to an oppositely racially weighted family, I don't think an apology would be an acceptable remedy. We would have heard, within moments of the segment's airing, from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and every other race baiter. But, In this case nothing.

    December 31, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. Malory Archer

    One one

    The snarkiness of this display seems common from comments comming from the left. Astounding hypocracy. I wonder if Obama will weigh in like he has in the past related to racial controversies.


    Yeah, except the hypocracy is eminating from the right. Your ilk says whatever it wants, regardless of who is "offended" and then tells the "offended" to get over it. In fact, it happens so frequently from your ilk that nobody even notices anymore. That it causes such a "scandal" when a Dem says something you don't like is a pretty good indicator that those occurences are quite rare.

    December 31, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. Dave

    You stay classy MSNBC...oh wait, you need some class first. I want to know when Al Sharpton is going to demand his MSNBC colleague be fired for being a racist.

    December 31, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. Carolyne

    As a black woman who has adopted a biracial child, I wonder if MSNBC's hosts would prefer that rich white people only adopt white children and turn down the opportunity to provide homes and families for minority orphans. Any time that a child is adopted into a loving home, it is a good thing no matter what color the skin is of the people providing the loving home or the child. I am sure the Romneys have the resources to get whatever child they want. They made the concious choice to give a home, and I am sure what will amount to a wonderful life filled with amazing opportunities, to this black child. Good for them!

    December 31, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  13. AW

    Boy if this was a Fox News host they would be calling for their job!! Funny how biased the liberal media is today...

    December 31, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  14. Ryan

    I am a liberal. Let's get that out of the way. That said, to take aim at Romney and his beautiful family and his gorgeous grandchild because of his politics is just disgusting. Absolutely shameful, and should warrant these "commentators" being fired.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  15. Al

    Sounds to me like MSNBC which is owned by Comcast is allowed to practice racism. And they, MSNBC were very harsh when it came to the Duck Dynasty comment. I guess this goes to show that depending on which side you lean on you can say anything and not lose your job. Great job MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  16. Whstever1784

    If cons weren't living 50 years behind the times, incidents like this would not happen.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  17. Name

    Off the cuff remarks followed by meaningless apologies.... Seems like you can say what you want then make a zero hearted apology to keep your job or do damage control. It's been my experience that a person's first remark to a situation or scenario is their sincere one anything that follows is meaningless.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  18. Malory Archer


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


    Which means they DON'T need to be fired. Otherwise, the ENTIRE faux newz crew and every commentator on a.m. radio need to fired first.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  19. larry

    If you watching MSNBC or FOX news you are being lied to and mislead on a daily basis. Get your news on the internet but always read both sides of the story and always more than one article for a better chance of finding out the truth.

    December 31, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  20. Rhonda

    MSNBC proves we are not a post racial society. The baby is gorgeous. Stay out of the Romneys' personal lives. Would MSNBC post other families who have adopted babies and laugh about them? MSNBC is no better than many tabloids.

    December 31, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  21. viewer

    They're not sorry. They say what they want. Apology means nothing.

    December 31, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  22. John

    European-Americans specifically adopt African-American children with the intention that they would stand out. You are not making fun of them, you are simply exposing their motivation.

    December 31, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  23. henry wester

    let there be peace on earth and goodwill toward each other. we all live in glass houses!

    December 31, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  24. Chris

    In case anybody is wondering why Fox News leans to the's because NBC is so far left!

    December 31, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  25. john

    That kid is REALLY cute. The Romney's must be loving every minute of it. It's too bad the bigots will always be whispering from the outside but its human nature I guess.

    December 31, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
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