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. hn

    Racist or homophobic joke or statement is mean to the individual or people it directed at , MSNBC or Fox. When it comes from MSNBC they seem to apologize. When it comes from Fox they blame the victim for questioning and makes it an attack on first amendment.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. Jwriter68

    Whether you lean left, right, or make the unsuccessful attempt at centrism, tasteless comments are just that! This is poking personal fun at the man's family and that is forbidden ground, period there is no defending that. Leftists think they are beyond rebuke while those on the right should walk on egg shells. That's biased and unrealistic so let's get it together for 2014.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  3. Suzy Mack

    I don't see why the Duck Dynasty people are being criticized.... Phil was asked a question and he honestly answered it. MHP & Crew voluntarily insulted MR and are TV hosts held to a different set of rules. Bill Maher is next. And let's not forget Ed Schults.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. January

    He's trying not to look

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Mary

    Another mountain made out of a molehill.

    December 31, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. The Truth

    Progressives? I think not. More like knuckle-dragging regressives. Good luck with that hate.

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  7. david beach

    Can someone explain to me hoe joking that the Romney grandchils might marry Kanye West and Kim Kardashian'd son, which would result in kanye and Romney being in'laws is offensive? Demanding that Perry be fired is utterly ridiculous. Hating for the sake of hating is out of control!

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  8. Greeny

    Thanks Cnn for rejecting my comments. Proves your stance as well.

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. 2L

    These commentators should all resign or be fired – what a disgrace!! Kudos to the Romney family for adopting a beautiful child! At least the Romneys are actually doing something about all the unwanted children in the world, they deserve more respect than this.

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. me

    Who cares about the skin color of the baby. Look at the size of Mrs. Romney's feet.

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. Lynne Miller

    Not good enough. The "apology" – come on. The entire panel should be fired. That would be "good enough" in response. And in consequence. Ugly intentional racist taunts on national television and over the internet – got no place on MSNBC or on Planet Earth. Why keep any of these panelists employed on MSNBC? Got a explanation for that, MSNBC?

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

    I am a shamed at the people who think Racism is a joke. It’s defiantly not!! I have in- laws who adopted two brothers, they are wonderful kids, they are Our Family!
    God Bless them, it shows Race is NOT an issue,.Amen to the Romney's.
    Beside Mr. Romney’s will be the next President and who knows, that little guy someone day could be too!

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Rudy NYC


    Lets see the fallout on this one. Normally the people who make racist remarks are fired. Lets see if the system is level handed.
    Of course, it's not level handed. The MSNBC people all apologized, while Phil Robertson did not. You're calling for these people to be fired, while liberals did not call for Phil to be fired. The A&E Network made a private sector business decision to suspend Phil. Liberals stayed out of it, but did criticize conservative politicians for jumping into where they did not belong.

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. scott

    well well well, i dont agree with melissa harris-perry, but how come it is ok for somebody on the right to say stuff but when the left says stuff, martin bashir talking about giving sarah palin a dirty sanchez or melissa harris-perry everybody gets their panties in a bunch and people get fired...

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Creel

    Wasn't Obama raised by a white family?

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  16. Get used to IT tea potty! 3 more yrs to spew ur hate @Obama

    Wow, CNN got this as BREAKING NEWS!!!

    Wonder why CNN got quiet when FAUX NEWS ditto head host said Santa and Jesus Christ was WHITE?!!!!

    December 31, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. Jim

    This is just the latest incident from a network (MSNBC) that is out of control. They say anything to get attention and try to improve their low ratings. Instead of striving for objectivity and quality programming, they play to their base and try to incite hatred against anyone who disagrees with their views. If the parent company (NBC) cares about their reputation, they will either divest this network or clean house at MSNBC from top to bottom since the problem appears to be the corporate culture of that network. I have already stopped watching NBC Nighty News because this other "news" network is managed by the same company. What MSNBC does reflects on the reputation and trustworthiness of the entire company. If NBC continually lets stuff like this go on, how can I trust what they report?

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. wilnel1984

    Why isn't this headline from CNN Money front page news?

    Home prices jump 13.6 percent.

    CNN has jumped the shark.

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. llatpoh

    They reveal themselves to be the REAL racists

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. Jared

    After all of the nasty and just plain wrong the things that have been said by the right about the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES for them to whine about this is typical. They have freedom of speech, regardless of whom they offend, but God forbid the other side responds in kind.

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. mo

    As the adoptive mother (white- mind you) with 5 adoptive (black) children. I think it was a STUPID thing to say. Why even go there?

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Brad

    For shame! BAD people! BAD! *CNN smacks the American public on the nose with a rolled up newspaper*

    December 31, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. Chuck

    I am just curious as to how saying the child may grow up to marry North West is offensive...that's just too funny to think of Kanye and Mitt Romney as future in laws. It's a morning weekend show. Most morning shows, weekday or weekend, are made to show the lighter side of life. Kindly take the sticks out of your rear ends everyone and enjoy a laugh sometime.

    December 31, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  24. Glenn Doty

    Not for nothing, but what WTF was Harris Perry THINKING? Why was this brought up as anything a panelist should comment on? The Romneys adopted a needy child. Give credit and move on. Not everything needs input from a panel, and not everything is partisan. This is deserved criticism for Perry's show.

    I'm sure that MSNBC will look at ratings to decide what form of censure would be appropriate, just as A&E did when the redneck family proved they were rednecks and said things that only racists rednecks would say... But in one case the redneck family was being exploited and sort-of made fun of by A&E... while a PhD was hired by MSNBC to host a political forum... I have more sympathy for the rednecks for situations of bewildering stupidity than I do PhD's. Perry will get whatever censure MSNBC feels appropriate to protect their ratings, and she will have earned it.

    I say this as an infrequent watcher of Perry's show.

    December 31, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  25. Tim Jordan

    Well, at least they didn't compare Romney to the title character in the film "Bruno" who adopts a African child for promotional purposes. Being an adoptee myself, it's laudable that they adopted a child and are giving him opportunities he might not have in any other family.

    December 31, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
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