December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
7 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 CNN.com.)

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. J-Man

    Are you serious? The black guy in the video says that "you don't make fun of children" and then gives MSNBC a pass. He says that "it is okay because everyone makes fun of Mitt Romney because it is like a sport". He also says people on both sides of the aisle do it. What an ignorant liar. I have never, not once heard a Republican making fun of Mitt Romney. There are some that have different policy opinions than him. However most of the mocking and name calling that goes on comes from the left. I suspect it is an attempt to hide their indefensible positions on just about everything. What else do you have if every idea you have is a bad one? This guy should never be on CNN again.

    December 31, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. Johnson City

    Oh my God! A large family of WHITE people! The horror! A white male and white female can't even be in a relationship these days without being considered racist for not dating outside their own race. So the Romney's adopted a black child. What's the big deal? It's the Liberals who have to make a scene out of it – it is ALWAYS the Liberals who have to make a scene about race.

    December 31, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. MrComments

    FOX and MSNBC have become as divisive as our Congress. They serve no useful purpose but to hate. They do it for ratings. It's got to stop. So people should just stop watching it. Get your news on line, and remember that talking heads gear their shows around RATINGS, not giving out good information and news.

    December 31, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. jzaks

    Where are you Jesse and Al? Certainly you must have some outrage over this. Should get you a little more TV face time if you play your cards right.

    December 31, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. Intelligent Observer

    Melissa Harris-Perry, Pia Glenn, Dean Obeidallah exposed their true values and will forever be known as hateful, snide, racists. Moreover, the management and producers chose these individuals to represent the beliefs of MSNBC. MSNBC is rotten to the core.

    December 31, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. Big_D

    I think it isn't so much about the child than the GOP sees a golden opportunity to use the child. Let's see if this kid grows up to want to be a GOP member, he will certainly have the money(at least I assume he will).

    December 31, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Tommyoak

    MSNBC is the home of racist hate speech in 21st-century America.

    December 31, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. anthrogirl

    If what is shown on the CNN clip is the questionable part of the MSNBC program, then I think the outrage against MSNBC is pretty much hype. The publicly released photo (as compared to a private family photo) of the rich white Romney family who out of charity and goodwill adopted a poor black baby is also another perspective here. Playing to either side is just hype.

    December 31, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. Raevyn

    How many of you in here who are enraged by these comments also supported the Duck Dynasty hater and even signed the petition for him to keep his job. Free speech applies to everyone.

    December 31, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. Aerosgrl

    After watching the news clip. She purposely pointed out the adopted child as the intro for their captions. Sorry but that WAS your intent! If she had not encouraged those types of comments then no big deal. There's plenty of other captions that could have been made if she didn't first suggest making comments about that child. If this was the other way around politically speaking people would be asking for her termination. Just goes to show you who's more tolerant!

    December 31, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. OrmondGeorge

    Is pointing out the uniqueness of a traditionally racist individual a racist act?
    Romney, a Mormon (deacon, I think) a historically racist religion is holding ONE black child in a field of white people.
    The fact that he is holding a black child doesn't change the FACT that it is incredibly ironic.

    December 31, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. strangways

    loved "Bob's" comment about conservatives thinking minorities are "the same as everybody else" – while cutting their benefits and chances of making a better life as fast as they can. best laugh of the day! thanks.

    December 31, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. kenstanek

    This is your top story today? really? Nothing else going on in the world?

    December 31, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. spacemonkey7

    Dear CNN: Why is it that Romney's family pictures are repeatedly featured in this article, but not a single image of the offending MSNBC commentator? You're using a child as a prop rather than shaming the commentator who half of us have likely never heard of or seen before. Stop showing a picture of the Romney family and this child who are innocents in this and give this Melissa Harris-Perry the notoriety she earned with this by fixing your headlines and blog images.

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. BO

    MSNBC is the laughing stock of shock jock news.

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  16. brian collins

    It goes to show just how little talent Melissa Harris-Perry really has and what a nothing she really is when compared to people with character. Irrespective of your political beliefs to demean a family that is above the fray in racial politics who have open their home and hearts to ANY child with a less than stellar future so as to enable that child to succeed at being happy, healthy and LOVED is beyond ignorant.

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  17. J-Man

    No surprise from Dean Obeidallah. This guy has yet to say anything intelligent. Ever.

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. Regina

    I have never written on one of these comment deals – but feel the need now – i'm a mother of 3 adopted children – their comments, and them, are just plain ignorant! That was not the forum for those comments – or really anywhere!

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. mike

    Call it what it is, the cartoon network.

    December 31, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. linda123

    All that pink and blue makes me want to puke.

    December 31, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Steven CaboWabo

    Looks like they are breeding enough to win the next elections.

    December 31, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. Mike N

    Oh well just another group of liberals having their usual after dinner conversation.....

    December 31, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  23. jqweion

    As disgusting as this is to watch because of the sheer lack of professionalism they show in making these remarks I can't put the blame entirely on them. The producers of the show should have never even put the guests in the position to make racist remarks with a picture like this. They should have known that jokes made about racist should NEVER be made because someone will be upset. I fault the guests for feeding into it but again, they shouldn't have ever even been in this position.

    December 31, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. Big_D

    I thought they had some standards when it came to adoption. This seems amiss to me but I guess the Romney's have enough money to do anything with anybody they want. Also, you would have to be humorless to not see the Carlton implications here.

    December 31, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. destroyerofeconomies

    Liberals are more dangerous than assault rifles.they should be banned

    December 31, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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