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. LEvas, Hunt Valley, Maryland

    MSNBC's behavior towards the beautiful adoption reminds me of Lindsey Lohan's public relations campaign through negative publicity. I guess that MSNBC was so desperate for any type of publicity that it stooped to making fun of a biracial adoption. Remember folks, MSNBC is run by professionals in media. These professionals know what each and every word said on their program will do to the viewing public. None of what MSNBC did was truly at all the "I didn't mean to" thing. I had never even heard of most of the participants in the MSNBC adoption bashing. In my opinion, the apologetic tweets are not from the heart and are just designed to get more publicity for MSNBC. None of it was unplanned or unintended. It was all intended. Well, they got what they wanted.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. Roger

    He's "not like the other ones" ... yeah, you're trying to bring people together. EQUALITY, we're all human.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Bob

    Even Don Lemon is not buying this nonsense but he has report it in order to be fair. Don, you know what they said at MSNBC was true. And look at the Conservative woman in this discussion with Don, she has turned this into an adoptions issue and making this about everything and about Jesse Jackson and ducking the issues about Romney. She is full of it. This also shows me how some conservatives are full of it and want to twist things around and make something out of nothing and things that they should be upset over,they are not upset over. Sarah Palin was defended for making slavery remarks, That was racist by Palin. NOT this story which is clearly an agenda for the Romneys.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Savetheducks

    The baby is beautiful. We can only hope he uses that brain in his head to see that Mittens and his family are not exactly representative of the rest of us out here. We aren't all rich politicians who think Joseph Smith was telling the truth.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Big Red

    People LOVE to get all up in arms over nothing. What was said that was so racist and insensitive? Get over yourselves people!

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  6. jerryrigger

    There's a whigger in every woodpile!

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. Dan

    I am a liberal, but don't watch MSNBC. To be honest, there is some humor in the joke, and I think people on the right and left are way over-sensitive. Yes, this type of humor is probably better left to late night comedians and SNL. It is interesting that Duck Dynasty was defended by people come out and attack MSNBC and constantly throw the most vile insults at the Obamas. Give up the hypocrisy! Regardless of their reasons, I applause the Romney's if they can provide an adopted child with a good home.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  8. Jim

    MSDNC has found the way to make FOX look like a classy news outfit with the dregs of humanity that are offered up as spokespeople, 'talent' and 'thought leaders'.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. Thatguy371

    Oh boy, here we go. Where to start? How bout developing a thicker skin if you're really offended by some wacky jokes? As for libs being insensitive... I won't even bother to drag out 1/1000th of the crapola the righties drag outta the woodwork every day... all disguised as 'relevant commentary'.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  10. OldGuyTalk

    So, instead of acknowledging the adoption of a beautiful child, and asking why more children aren't adopted (a true social issue); we'll focus on the race of the child and the background of the parents. Please explain, in all the apologies, how this isn't the type of racism Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all their supporters would be clutching their chest over if anyone else did it.

    December 31, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. John

    You libs are showing your hate once again. All of you people putting down Romney or defending MSDNC truly show who you are – racist haters. I wonder what your posts would look like if the same things were said by repubs when looking at a picture of this woman with her white family.

    December 31, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. *sigh*

    Who is melissa harris perry? and how does this get any attention unless conservatives who are closet liberals are watching a nobody on msnbc?

    December 31, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  13. Dave

    My family is multi-racial, and I have no problem with it. We joke about the make-up of our family all the time. People need to lighten up. Take a step back from the ledge, and stop being offended by every little thing. It was a JOKE, people. And honestly, if the Romney family is upset by this, I would be really surprised.

    December 31, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. texasnotea

    What about those tax returns Mitt? Still hiding the truth?

    December 31, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  15. sad

    The only good thing about this is that only the twelve people that watch msnbc got to see this typical tasteless remarks

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. BudW

    Well well well where is Al? *crickets chirping* amazing when the shoe is on the other foot hypocrites from MSNBC singing a different tune America wake up and you will see the true racist are from the left.

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. cbp

    Perhaps all people will begin to realize that any jokes about ethnicity are not funny, Certainly there have been many jokes about the Obamas including jokes about Mrs. Obama which were uncalled for. For 2014 we should all make an effort to stop telling these jokes. It has nothing to do with being politically correct and more to do with being sensitive to others.

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Bob

    Obama the Messiah

    They have the right to say what they did, but it is tasteless. If people find it insulting, don't watch. People on the left love this stuff as it makes them feel more superior and those on the right love Fox. Hmm. Which network is doing better with more viewership???
    Obama the Messiah

    Yeah, but which one is doing better in the voting booth? And you can believe the Congress is going to look very different when it comes time to vote.

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. Wardo22

    Melissa Harris-Perry is the individual who told us that our children do not belong to us they belong to the collective. Why would she have a problem with the Romneys if all the kids belong to the collective?

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. Joe Goog

    One Million babies are executed every year in this country without the opportunity this little guy has to grow up in a loving family and make a difference. The crass comments of media morons just confirms their bias toward life and their radical allegiance to political factions. I don't listen to talking heads in main stream media, they don't represent reality.

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. Leet

    Don't you just love an apology that ends with the "if" statement? "IF I offended someone...I'm sorry". Not simply "I was stupid and insensitive and I'm sorry". Standard public figure apology..."I got my attention and I don't give a crap about what I said".

    December 31, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  22. Robert

    First Martin Bashir, now this. MSNBC spews left wing hate and propaganda hourly. That's why the network is the tank.

    December 31, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  23. I AM

    Love is all you need.

    December 31, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. BO

    What is with all the hatred and racism from the lefties here recently?

    December 31, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Jo

    I am definitely NOT a political fan of Romney, but from what I can determine about the comments surrounding the adopted grandson, anybody who said them, and anybody who was laughing, and anybody who did not step in and stop the lunacy–well, they're ALL way beyond tacky tacky. "What a lovely family" and "I'll bet all those kids just have a ball when they get together" would have been a fine thing to say.

    December 31, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106