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. Rudy NYC

    fed up wrote on page 19:

    Yea, and its the RIGHT that is labeled as racist???
    Yup. These people IMMEDIATELY apologized, and the right is calling for their heads. Mr. Phil did not apologize, he was STAUNCHLY defended by right wing politicians, and they did it for no reason I can understand because Mr. Phil absolutely nothing to do with politics. Furthermore, Mr. Phil has his job back, which only makes the red necks justify their bigotry.

    December 31, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  2. nick

    Yet no outrage from the media. Can you imagine if one of the Conservative talking heads made the comments?! Whoa nelly

    December 31, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  3. vinster76

    what bothers me more, is Romney and his family have opened their home, their lives, and fortune, to someone of a different race........that child will know a lot of love, and have nothing deprived from him......How many of the MSNBC crowd can say they have done anything remotely as caring in their entire lives, as the Romney's have? The laugh is really on them.....their lack of moral depth and clarity glaringly obvious to an entire nation....They should go the way of Bashir...

    December 31, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  4. lindy500

    The woman's mask slipped and showed the world she is a racist.

    December 31, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  5. TTNYC

    Leave it to MSNBC to once again act and speak inappropriately. Nice 'liberals'.

    What a bunch of fools.

    December 31, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  6. Bryan

    I saw that photo and didn't even register that the baby was black. It meant nothing to me. I guess I'm just a dumb evil conservative

    December 31, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. Rob

    Channel of Losers. racist Losers playing to low information viewers.
    MSNBC should be taken off the air.
    However, with such horrible ratings, bad publicity is better than non at all.

    December 31, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    In looking at both photo's perhaps we adults should all copy the grace of Romney's young granddaughter sitting on the left of her grandfather and move on to another article.

    She is very proud of her little brother.

    December 31, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. Joe

    I have always known the dem party and it's supporters to be racist. They always claim not to be, but the truth is they have kept the African American people down for decades. They want to see them in the ghettos with the free handouts from the government. The people at this news station will need to answer one day for their actions. It's going to suck to be them.

    December 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  10. Jimmy

    The radical left and the radical right are what's wrong with this country.

    December 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. loyalright

    Liberals; no morals and only hate.

    December 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. Philip

    Typical of the far left party of hate.

    December 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  13. Barrence

    Why is he the only boy in the picture not wearing a blue Oxford?

    December 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. Fair is Fair


    There is no way of getting around it ... this is awfully distasteful coming from those who ought to know better. I can't imagine why grown adults when put in front of T.V. monitors feel the need to make complete fools of themselves.
    It's called "preaching to the choir".

    Regardles of the preacher or the choir, I really had hoped we had gotten past such. I guess not. Shame on all of us.

    December 31, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  15. Ken

    Where is the outcry from the NAACP over this????? This is just as offensive as whatever Phil Robertson said. As a matter of fact, it's worse, because it was racism that brought out the comments. The panel wasn't responding to a specific question asking for their beliefs, but given a blanket question, and then racial comment after racial comment.... Hypocrisy at its best.

    To the Romney's – You have beautiful grandchildren and that is a great picture that will surely be treasured by the entire family.

    December 31, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  16. anothermuse

    Yawn...more contrived outrage. Next exaggerated story please.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. James

    I am a white, conservative Republican. We have an adopted black grandchild from Africa as well as an adopted grandchild from China. We love those children as much as we do our biological grandchildren. I dare some liberal to make a snarky remark about our family.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. lauradet

    Oh, boy! Let's watch and see how the righties blow this out of proportion.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  19. CitizenKK

    The intolerant and racist left has reared it's ugly head....once again.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. JoMama

    Silly us. Don't we know that only conservatives and Republicans can be racist? Get with the program.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  21. tom l

    Funny how the left calls people like Romney and Phil Robertson racists yet they have African Americans that are part of their family.

    December 31, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. Homer

    Why is everyone acting surprised? This is absolutely in character for this group of misfits.

    December 31, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  23. DR Zumba

    I find it funny that white America is outrage about this comment, but not about the Duck Dynasty comments.

    December 31, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. Gord

    Wow, people need to chill. I don't see anything wrong with the comments. Seriously, people always read too deep and try to find the hate in everything.

    December 31, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  25. tomatoapple

    Interesting how some people issue an apology with the word "apologize." If you're really sorry, you should put down your Thesaurus and use the simple words: "I'm sorry," as Harris-Perry did. Or say "I am so sorry," which is even more heartfelt.

    December 31, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
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