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. Margie

    MSNBC can dish out the hate, and criticize any one else who doesn't follow their liberal beliefs, and they think they should get a pass for being bigots? Oh sure, they didn't mean it, anything for a laugh. Just because the Romneys have money and are savvy doesn't mean they aren't warm, compassionate, loving people. I got this Christmas card in the mail, and I honestly have to say the little black baby didn't stand out to me because people in my own family have adopted black children, and it is very common nowadays. We are all made in God's image, and yes, even conservatives love and appreciate people of other races and cultures!

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. AngryDave

    Take it easy all you friggin Fox news hypocrites..they say a lot worse about the president and so do Rush, Hannity, Palin, O'Riely, Coulter....

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. Arthur D Leigh

    I thought the conservatives were the ones that were so upset with the PC crowd.
    There was NOTHING racist about what the people on MSNBC said.
    What if the photo was of Al Sharpton's family and the Rev had a white baby on his lap? The folks at Fox would be screaming kidnapping and child abuse!

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. Roger

    What if it had been a picture of young Barack with his white family. Would they make the same reference to him not belonging?

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. LMR

    The MSNBC crowd has done it again. We live in an everything goes world when it comes to the liberals of the Dem party or the lib talking heads on cable news. Shame on the fools at MSNBC, just a bunch of fools.

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Gelin

    regardless of party affiliation- when did become ok for the talking heads to single out a child? unacceptable and lack of morals....pull back from the edge people and have some sensitivity

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. hkirwin


    I don't think anything they said was really offensive, but why they would even think joking about this issue would be seen as acceptable is beyond me. That family needs more color, that's all I know. They are pale.

    What is your acceptable percentage level of color? Can you say bigot?

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Lynne Miller

    Don't you just love when people arrogantly don't apologize, but suggest "if" someone was offended by racist taunts then they apologize. Sheez, MSNBC – don't you just think firing this panel would be more appropriate? I do. You got a ugly racist lot there – and there is nothing funny about any of it.

    Racist taunting like MSNBC just enjoined in – has no place. And the Romney family being targeted just because. Come on.

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. Xman

    It is a shame that not too long ago the mormon cult believed and taught that all black people were the result of God "making mistakes" when creating people on Earth. There's discrimination and then there's religious hate, the latter of which is the absolute worst kind, imo. But it's good to see the Romneys don't believe in it.

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Kevin

    Fire her!!!! I'm a liberal Democrat; if such a comment had been made by a Republican or conservative, MSNBC would be calling for their head.

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Maria Martin

    Who cares? If they adopted a kid, black, white, yellow or whatever color. Why are we talking about Romney? He does not deserves our attention. If this kid was adopted good for him, when you have so much money and power you can afford to adopt a least 20 kids, feed them, clothe them and love them. I have more admiration for a family who have much less and still adopt and give their time, money and love to a child. why is MSNBC not talking about these families? We are all sick and tired to see the "good deeds" of these politicians, bankers and Hollywood people on TV

    December 31, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  12. James Williams

    This stands out: "it was a joke about the lack of racial diversity that we see at the Republican National Convention."

    This is ironic, considering that many of the folks who slam Republicans for a lack of people of color are the same ones who publicly shame the few people of color who are conservatives.

    December 31, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. LifeIsGood

    There are absolutely zero reasons to watch MSNBC. Their commentators are educated idiots and the most bigoted on the planet!

    December 31, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. hkirwin


    Ha, I think it was hilarious........but really, why does anyone care about the Romneys??? I was hoping these freaks had gone away...

    LOL...any quess what he considers normal?

    December 31, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. IA

    @GET used to IT tea potty!.....".Faux News makes fun of Obama & his family everyday!!!" Please stop the lies! Please offer ONE example of what you claim! You're just as ignorant as MHP for promoting hatred and lies to promote your twisted agenda. Comment?

    December 31, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. Zreebs

    The CNN headline "MSNBC About Romney's Adopted Grandson" is very misleading. It was a guest on the she that made the joke. That is what Mellissa Harris-Perry gets from having fourth-tier guests on the show. Sometimes these people just say stupid things. The comment was offensive. I'm pleased that Romney's family adopted that child.

    December 31, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  17. Really?

    I can't believe that Bill Gates still allows them to use the MS in their name. How embarassing. MCNBC spews hatred and should be taken off the air.

    December 31, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. jlward953

    This child is going to struggle with his racial identity as he grows up. Being different than everyone around you will bring a lot of questions up. I think everyone can relate to having our self image affect our lives. What he won't need is the national media bringing it up and putting him in the spotlight. My wife and I have been planning on adoption (likely outside of our race). It's important to remember how that puts a burden on the child. It's enough of an issue all by it's self. He's an infant and already has been the butt of a race joke. When he's older and Googles himself he will find this article. Hopefully he will be secure enough in himself not to take it as a personal attack and hopefully this will be the last of it. Everyone knows that the media personalities can and do say whatever they want. The real question is, SHOULD they have said it. I suppose to them it is answered by how much attention they get from it.

    December 31, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. pat

    Melissa's problem is that she is self indulgent and surrounded by people who do not have the brains or guts to tell her the truth about some of her programming. This is just the latest example of a deteriorating show. From her shows about women's hair – pardon me, black women's hair – to her segments where we get the learned world affairs perspectives of her 11 year old daughter, we are treated to whatever Meslissa feels like doing. The show is losing audience focus and then something like this happens. Sorry, MSNBC, you have to her in (and truth be told, you have to reign in a few more of your hosts). I am a flaming liberal and I am getting pretty tired of it all. This is just the latest in a long line of self indugences that should not be tolerated.

    December 31, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. David

    MSNBC America's Least Watched News Channel. They're still on the air? Haven't watched or listened to these guys in nearly four years.

    December 31, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. WillyNilly

    Really, it seems that no one has that little voice in their head that tells them to "SHUT UP". People on television try to appear real and natural but sometimes they forget that real and natural isn't nice. This isn't isolated to one network or one program, it happens everywhere because people have not been raised well to respect others and to keep some things to yourself and to exercise some self-control. You don't have to say everything you think. The baby is lovely and anyone would be lucky to have him. Congrats to the Romney's... whose political philosophy is different from mine.

    December 31, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. Great

    It's odd that some of you are more upset that CNN is reporting this, being that it's Romney's family. The facts are, that the Rosa Parks of this country stood up to people like Perry and her ilk. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for those that can't stand up for themselves. And Perry should have been able to over come her hate for Romeny and do just that. It's not a shot at the man, the party, when you use a child to belittle someone. He's a child, and if he could understand those words, they would hurt him. It's a shame that hating someone or something, somehow justifies this type of behavior.

    December 31, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Greeny

    MSNBC is already lower than grass in rates and respect by most everyone except liberal haters. This only proves their stance once more. And laughable apology from notorious Obeidallah means nil.

    December 31, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Where is Jesse Jackson now?????? Surely he needs a sit down to work this out. Come on Jesse, you can get yourself in the news.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  25. James Rustle

    Does anyone expect anything different from MSNBC at this point? They can hardly sink any lower.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
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