December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
8 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. Josh

    One story on Political Ticker so comments can't go on Disqus where (in my opinion) it is a lot easier to comment and discuss and the other story on this the comments are closed... Interesting. I think Marc Lamont Hill's response to this was pretty much more offensive than the actual remarks made by MSNBC... Which is really saying something because MSNBC was terrible for what they said. Just shows the double standard liberals have for themselves.

    December 31, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. MrBigStuff

    That no good racist, homophobic Mitt Romney. How dare his family show acceptance, compassion and tolerance by adopting a black child. Clearly, that's not in line with his image as a right-wing totalitarian despot. Shame on Mitt......

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  3. tmannov1177

    Overly sensitive this country is now. You can't say a thing without offending some idiot. Get over it and grow a pair.

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Thom Burke

    This was dumb from conception. How the director ever thought it was a good idea to give them that picture and tell them to come up with jokes off the top of their heads is beyond me.

    The GOP are no better by any measure, but they do love to generate fake outrage when it suits their purposes. And this was just giving them ammo. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. CLNW

    I just do not understand why is this such a big deal! I do think that the jokes were very inapproriate. I do not think that any person should get fired now that is just ridiculous!!!!

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Michelle

    Why weren't there calls for HER, & all the staff's removal, after the Duck Dynasty controversy?!! Hypocritical news trash.

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. Wayne V

    Dan – this has nothing to do with Fox or any other outlet on the other side... We have to own our on racists too.

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. rs

    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.
    Funny how the Right, with Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the Birthers and the TEA Party act offended at one comment aimed at the Romneys- especially during a week they defended Mr. Robertson's Homophobia, racism and pedophilia.

    December 31, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. Rae

    I'm a mother to two children adopted from Asia (18 years and still counting) and MSNBC gets the award for saying the most insensitive comments regarding the family and child who was adopted. This beats even the man who chased me down in the grocery story asking questions about how much I paid for my daughter. I expect more from people like Melissa Harris-Perry. Though I appreciate the apology, it is sad that Harris-Perry does not understand why her comments are in poor taste. What if the child had been different because of a missing limb and she made these same comments? There is no difference between the two situations. Both are in very poor taste. Adoption is not something to make jokes about.

    December 31, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Bob

    I find it incredible that just because people are liberals they think they are immune from being racist. The reality of liberals is that they think minorities are second class citizens who need welfare and special treatment by the media, while conservatives think they are the same as everyone else and should have equal opportunity to work hard for their living. And the best part is liberal media thinks they are racist for that and people buy into it.

    December 31, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. Candice O'Malley

    Obviously MSNBC needs some educated, cultured, and experienced commentators.

    December 31, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. blue079

    I still greatly dislike Romney and his opinions and views and still glad he did not become president, BUT good for his son and his wife for adopting a child, any child, regardless of race. There are way too many children out there who need loving homes– and they could care less what race the family is or political party they are affiliated with, as long as they provide unconditional love and support.

    And shame on people like MHP who many times stands up to racism but find it okay to make these comments which were clearly political. If we don't want divisiveness and racism in our society, it must be eliminated in all aspects, from all sides.

    But please, people, stop acting like this one act from one person in Romney's family (it wasn't even Romney himself) changes who he is and what his political record and actions have shown. Just like MHP's comments don't change who she is and what her past actions and words have shown.

    One action or one comment does not make a person, it is the consistent and persistent views and actions of a person that makes them who they are.

    December 31, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. bill ball

    If a person watches Al Sharpton and Chris Matthews on msnbc for one night you never have watch another show on that channel again is will be evident it is nothing more than a whine for the victims agenda.

    December 31, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. John N Florida

    Absolutely , positively NO EXCUSE what so ever for this behavior. Suspension at least is deserved. AND I'm an MSNBC fan.!

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. Frank

    Freedom of Speech right? Bristol Palin threw a tantrum after people attacked Phil Robertson for his remarks on gay people. Why doesn't this apply to this case?

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. jrzydvl

    @ Tim
    I am not a tea Party supporter, but I have never, ever, heard the Tea party stoop to the level of MSNBC. They are acused, but the accusations never hold up under sctutiny. Now, they do have some radical views, but they do not denigrate as the rabid left does all the time. BTW, where is Sharpton, Jackson, et al . I would expect nothing less than a boycott of MSNBC

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. Mark Alden

    I'm actually amazed CNN acknowledged this news item. Is CNN finally growing up!!! Adopting a child is about the most selfless thing a person can do. Limo libs talk BIG talk.... walk zero walk.... fail. The Romneys are clearly walking the walk... Anyone that is willing to sacrifice a large portion of their life to improve another life is ok w/ me. It's Kinda scary that it's not ok w/ MSNBC (but not unexpected).

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Bob

    @justasking is correct. I watch FOX news and they almost always have people on both sides having a discussion. MSNBC just has racist liberals that think they are above judgement.

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. Deano DD

    The true point of this article is the battle for ratings between two liberal networks. Seems anytime MSNBC does something controversial, CNN is all over it on their front page. Just media gamesmanship looking for the almighty advertising dollar.
    In essence, it's all for naught because the viewership for either network will never be there for these 2 ratings bottom feeders. Why? Most libs already have all the answers, so what have they got to learn by watching television.

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. glenview0818

    For those who feel this Democratic Party run rag is any different than the other side, should take notice. What makes this especially egregious is this comes directly from the network point fingers at everyone else. If you say you are taking the high ground, and then do this, you should be scrutinized for other stories.

    December 31, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  21. daveinla

    Liberal tolerance. The most hateful people on earth are from the left of the political spectrum.

    December 31, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. ernie

    Funny how the left thinks they can insult anyone and get away with it. The days of worshipping themselves are at an end

    December 31, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. RS

    The biggest insult was making the dudes in that photo wear those awful blue plaid shirts! Pretty horrific, if you ask me, versus what was said on MSNBC...

    December 31, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  24. Bender

    I do remember being able to laugh at and appreciate our differences, rather than creating an ideology that punishes anyone who acknowledges them. But hateful things happened then too. I don't know if there's an answer. I think the human heart is just broken. Reading the bile and venom spewed on the internet, in places like this, seems to confirm that. It makes me sad for us all. If we could all listen more and be kinder to others, we would have a better chance of seeing the change for which we all seem so desperate.

    December 31, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  25. Occent

    So classless. MSNBC used to be a real news outlet, now it's nothing more than a tabloid.

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