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. Rose

    My question is, will she be fired, if she was white I would say she would.

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. mary douglas

    Are there no grown ups on MSNBC? What the heck.

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. RedMaple

    The Romney's likely simply had a wonderful holiday season with thier loving family and blown off any comments. BOTH sides of the aisle, AND MEDIA, make dreadful and inappropriate remarks. Listened to Rush recently...? , I am not a fan of Romney's political stance, but respect him and his family for the values they hold. Any public figure must just ignore the rude comments or they'd all go insane trying to keep up with them or refute them. 'The best response to a mean cruel spirited verbal attack is silence. Let it stand for all to witness its ugliness.' I am sure the Romney's have adopted that philosophy, or they would never lasted in the public limelight as they have. Bottom line - 'Who cares!' - the whole Romney family has an adorable new baby to cherish and love!

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Reggie53

    MSNBC has so-called journalists working for them so what do you expect. The affirmative action law is showing why it does not work. You have unqualified people working in jobs that they are totally not qualified to do. Shame on MSNBC for their choice of personnel. I am black and I am disgusted with my own people when they behave in this manner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. Juanito

    Regardless of who said it and which side of the political spectrum they lean to, the hosts should be fired.

    The hate is deep on both sides, and the rush to defend or deflect attention away from what transpires is indicitive of each sides followers being blind to truth.

    Those from the right jumping on this and pointing fingers at the libs should be expected, and the left defending MSNBC and deflecting should also be expected.

    If this was said by Palin, Limbaugh or any other con talking head, the screams would surely erupt from the left.

    So wear this well, limousine liberals. You are really no better than those you criticize.

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Herewe Goagain

    Why would a network that prizes diversity make fun of a little black boy, and/ or the family who adopted him?

    December 31, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Gator

    What we've known all along – liberals are the bigger racists.

    December 31, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. Anonymous

    Where is the offense? She said the baby is "gorgeous" and might some day marry Kanye West's baby. Ok again I ask where is the offense? I don't get it.

    December 31, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Mark

    If this would have happened on the other foot, the liberals would be screaming for someone to get fired... But since its against a conservative, just apologize and call it good.

    December 31, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. I R Amazed

    I actually don't care much for MHP's show and don't watch it.
    Were the jokes in bad taste? Sure. Were they a little funny? Yes.
    Are we turning into a nation of lame PC drones with absolutely no sense of humor? MOST CERTAINLY!
    But if you want to really look at offensive comments that people try to pass off as jokes, you really need to pay more attention to the right wing "commentators"

    December 31, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. spacemonkey7

    Dear CNN: Please stop exploiting this child and the image of the Romney family...the commentator and her comments are the story here – not the picture of Romney's family. Neither this child nor this family should be paraded about in this way. Give this commentator the notoriety she earned and post her image under the headline on your mainpage and under the headline of this blog post.

    December 31, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. BO

    Who cares about MSNBC? They are irrelevant. Their ratings have fallen off the charts. This is the reason why. They play only to hateful bigots.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  13. Bubba Ray

    I love fake conservative outrage. They're the first ones to tell "politically correct liberals" to "suck it up". Time for conservatives to do some sucking up of their own.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. Murray

    As a Liberal and an adopted child... I am appalled at MSNBC's statement about the Romney's African American Child... That is why I stopped watching MSNBC years ago... You're a side show, your not even news anymore... Quit making us Liberals look so bad... You don't represent me as a Liberal in ANY way...

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  15. Miller

    Where is Al and Jesse?

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  16. mace

    Political ploy is all that picture is.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Name K Moosman

    We as a white Mormon parents that has adopted a black African-American child think that she should think before talking. Our child will have, has had a better life then she would have had.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. hkirwin

    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.

    You folks on the far left really don't get it do you? This isn't about politics or the Romney's. It is about human decency. When you figure it out the world will be a much better place.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Robert

    Yet again we see the "sensitivity" and "tolerance" of liberals. Let's add total and utter hypocrisy into the mix.

    MSNBC continues to be more and more of a joke with it's own punch line. MSNBC, do you have "Mean-Spirited" as one of your core competencies? Do you hire on that? As your ratings continue to tank and numbers of viewers continues to plummet, it's almost sad how desperate you're getting, but you're spiraling downward. Getting more and more "liberal" (and mean-spirited, caustic and bitter) is your own death spiral. We'll watch.

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. Mark

    Oh my, Mitt Romney adopted part of the 47%???? Maybe he is planning another run for President!!!

    December 31, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. destroyerofeconomies

    This is the human trash that our universities train

    December 31, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. CNN_Tagger

    Were is the NCAAP? Why they are not making mess on this? They surely did when Phil Robertson made his comments.

    December 31, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Jim

    Such a racist comment. I guess you can get away with saying racist things when you believe you are always right. The network will reinforce this by not firing her. Perpetuate the hate and increase the divide, that's the media's number one job these days.

    December 31, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. IA

    @Get used to IT tea potty......Stop taking situations out of context. You only expose your ignorance. Even the left shuns your logic.

    December 31, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. John Chiurato

    Had Hannity, O'Reilly, Palin or any other conservatives made these statements cities across America would be burning as you read this but when MSNBC does it, a simple apology suffices and the issue goes away. Oh wait, I’m comparing responsible journalism versus drivel, my bad.

    They should move MSNBC to the comedy channel seeing they’re nothing but a bunch of clown!

    December 31, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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