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. Name

    I find the MSNBC comments about the Romney family photo deplorable, these people involved with these comments have no integrity, I considered them racist. I would say they owe the Romney family an apology although it would be an empty apology

    December 30, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  2. Leon in KS

    Great that they adopted a beautiful child. The sad thing for the future of the world is that they have 22 grandchildren. Doesn't that cause anyone else worry? Each of those will likely have more than 2 dozen grandchildren. Fortunately I will not be around long enough to see that but the Romneys and my 4 grandchildren will.

    December 30, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  3. Milk Toast

    -_-' I'm very young. Can someone explain to me what a "news" station really is and what their purpose is?

    December 30, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  4. jnpa

    MSNBC was just trying to imagine how it felt to be FoxNews!

    December 30, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  5. Kitty Litter

    I'm surprised anybody saw it, given MSNBC's ratings are right up there with the tomato Channel.

    December 30, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Name

    So sad. Some people are stupid and most likely have kids in trouble.

    December 30, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  7. Ian

    I'd like to know how this photo came to be public.

    December 30, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  8. LBW

    I know a couple who became certified as foster parents on a Tuesday. By Thursday they had been contacted 7 times to be told there was a child ready to be placed. If there are that many kids who need homes anybody who steps up to take care of one of them deserves thanks not sarcasm.

    December 30, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  9. EdL

    MSNBC acting normally. They (supposedly) brag about leaning forward. Those who lean forward may sometimes lean too far forward. In total they are a sick bunch who are well satisfied with themselves.

    December 30, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  10. Irrational Exuberance

    What Pia seems to now understand is that her joke played on the idea of "othering" people, and pointing out how they are different as if it matters that they are different in skin color. It is a step away from judging by content of character.

    I think her later comments show she understand why it is offensive and her tweets were a positive step.

    December 30, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  11. Mike

    Why is it nobody can take a joke anymore? This used to be a country where people had balls. Regardless of what color your skin is, we all need to have it be a little thicker.

    December 30, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  12. lulu

    What a bunch of hypocrites... if that were a republucan joking about a liberal, the media would be all over it

    December 30, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  13. Caity

    If the baby is a boy, why is it wearing the girls' colors? Why is no one commenting on that?

    December 30, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  14. Name

    The comments made on MSNBC about the Romney family photo are deplorable and racist. MSNBC has shown again that they have no integrity, and Perry should not be hosting any shows. MSNBC owes the Romney family an apology, although I feel it would be an empty apology, just like the comedians apology to the baby. Looks like MSNBC found a whole pack of idiots.

    December 30, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  15. ABatikh

    Cable news is just absolutely unwatchable. I just don't understand which significant demographic would enjoy watching programming like this. It's not funny, it's snide, and it's pseudo-analysis derived from the African American Studies and Gender Studies departments of academia. I'm generally a liberal myself, and this is just base, classless drivel. I don't think there are any apologies required for anybody in this case; I just think they all disgraced themselves. Unfortunately, MSNBC has chosen to counter the decidedly unfunny humor of conservative talk radio and websites with spectacles like this. You're not comedians. Report the news.

    December 30, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. MrsJAZ

    They are idiots and should be ashamed of themselves.

    December 30, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  17. Tim

    They are true liberals on MSNBC, and that is the point. MSNBC only cares about one thing, making fun of conservatives. Nothing conservatives do is right. Everything they do is evil and wrong and must be poked fun at, criticized, and hated. I can remember last time I saw an MSNBC news broadcast, I was literally ill and disgusted. It reminded me of the Nazi propaganda that used to be shown to Germans during WWII. As a true believer in democracy, I must say that anyone who watches MSNBC, is not getting a fair point of view. I absolutely love how liberals are so quick to point to Fox News as being "a bunch of right wing nutjobs". Fox News has never even come close to how bigoted and biased MSNBC is, only that is bias towards the left, so guess that doesn't matter to any of you Communists.

    December 30, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  18. Josie

    MSNBC is nothing but a channel full of hate mongers masquerading as journalists, reporters and commentators. They can't go out of business fast enough for me.

    I'm sure they would find it more acceptable if the Romney's had just let this poor child lead a miserable life as an unadopted foster child, or an orphan that never had a family. These clowns are just heartless, horrible people. They should be shunned.

    December 30, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  19. Susie

    There is no rationale that makes this appropriate.

    December 30, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  20. Public Opinion

    Shame on MSNBC for its disgusting and contemptible display of pure bigotry.

    December 30, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  21. JoMama

    Ohhhh maaan, you people are sick. Really, really sick. Not the MSNBC crew but all you outraged writers. Get a life. It was meant as humor and it was clever, funny and harmless. I'm getting very sick of every comment turning into something racist or bigoted. Get off it.

    December 30, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  22. trueblue

    This is Crazy. For 5 years we have had to hear all the right wing can swing at President Obama and his wife. Now when ever we say something it's too far. The truth hurts and everyone know this adoption is due to a recent fad. They see how a mixed family can poll higher and jumped on it. Great job Melissa Thank you for the wonderful segment

    December 30, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  23. Igor

    the actions of these "liberals" expose the hypocrisy and bias of the left – of course we all "know" that only leftists can embrace "diversity" and any expression of similar sentiments by evil, bigoted Republicans is worthy only of ridicule.

    December 30, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    Stupidity is part of the human condition. It afflicts both left and right.

    December 30, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    It's time people on both parties realize that they must grow up. Fox is a national disgrace and MSNBC is trying to beat them at their own game? Very bad strategy, guys. Reclaim your brains and leave charades like that to Fox and friends.

    December 30, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
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