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. Another Voice

    This sort of "humor" should be scorned by anyone that calls themselves civilized. When did it become acceptable for adults to score points off of babies? No matter your politics, religion, social class, education, age, whatever - this type of mean spirited nonsense needs to stop.

    I'm sure the parents of these "comedians" are soooo proud of them. All those that followed this and found it amusing should stop to think about what their own families would think about their own acceptance of this nastiness.

    December 30, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  2. scootfl78

    Here's CNN once again defending Mitt Romney and acting like he's the poor little rich boy that has the whole world (except for CNN) against him. Let's not forget that Mitt Romney is the same person who put a dog on top of his car (though if you heard it from CNN, the dog somehow ended up in the front seat) and who spent millions of dollars on his horse, but didn't want any money spent on the poor (though if you heard in from CNN, Romney gave all his money to the poor).

    December 30, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  3. skim jims

    no one heard of "sticks and stones" statement – the world is now far too easily offended, and being offended by almost anything really reduces or removes the impact of any "offense" taken. This shouldn't even be a news story, but I am amazed by the reactions to it.

    December 30, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. Fiona

    The only thing that bothers me in this story is the fact that the baby's mother is one of those annoying people who wears sunglasses on her head indoors.

    Why does that photos of grandparents and grand kids have to mean anything other than "we have helped to overpopulated the world"? I'm just glad at least one of those kids is adopted.

    December 30, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  5. Bjorn Bjornsen

    If a conservative had done this liberals would have been calling for his/her ouster before the sun had gone down.

    I guess if you're liberal and bigoted it's okay ... as long as you're bigoted against those horrible conservatives :s

    December 30, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  6. The Pope

    Hey, he only did it to try to get the Black vote. He never got the news he lost the election a long time ago.

    December 30, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  7. T

    ...really is the GOP demographic profile............It IS.......

    December 30, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  8. ObamaCares!

    Its OK for the liberal to do so, since we are not racists, as opposed to the neo-confederate rethugs!

    December 30, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  9. Tony

    This truly exposes who the real mean-spirited racists are - those who dont want racism to die for their very careers depend on it.

    December 30, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  10. ktoo

    It's time for General Electric to pay up for putting this garbage (MSNBC) on the air. If Duck Dynasty, a show known for fart jokes, was excoriated by this organization (MSNBC), they have NO CHOICE but to fire ALL if the people involved in this REAL outrage.

    December 30, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  11. donna

    Melissa Harris- Perry won't even admit that her mother is white.

    December 30, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  12. myrtlemaylee

    And this is why I'm no longer a regular watcher of ANY pundit show, merely an occasional surfer. Politicians put themselves in the spotlight & are subject to snark or worse. But alleged "professionals" who insult, mock or use a child – or other family members – to score points are, IMO, disgusting & unworthy of TV airtime. More than those who use N-words, F-words, or whatever words. You want to mock Mitt & the GOP? I'll be right there with you. But mocking the diversity or lack thereof of his family is low.

    December 30, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  13. cd

    This professor of academea that happens to have a "show" that happens to have a "lisp" is once again performing for the MAIN STREAM MEDIA and devaluating herself without even knowing it!

    December 30, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  14. Brian Witt

    Common on MSNBC, you can do better.
    Apologize now. No excuses, just a simple apology.

    As a classic Berkeley liberal, as an adopted child and grand-father with a multi-ethnic family including an adopted child, your humor is not funny and not entertaining. I'm embarrassed that you claim to be liberal but would mock a family with adopted children.

    Apologize. Not half-way, all the way. You were wrong to mock the family.

    December 30, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  15. Postmaster

    Thank you Romney's for caring enough to adopt a child and giving him a good home and oportunities.

    December 30, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  16. reply

    Congratulations to Romney's kids for adopting a black child into a white family. A needing child is a needing child no matter the race.

    December 30, 2013 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  17. Thinkergal

    Oh, get a grip. The comments were not offensive in any way. I love the energy and timeliness of the MHP program. BTW, Dean O did a great job of "apologizing" for that which need no apology.

    December 30, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. Tony

    I'm white, and when I look at that picture, I see one adorable smiling baby beaming with an infectious smile and what I assume is his very happy mother and sister, also beaming with joy. I had to smile myself. I wish them the best. Happy Holidays!

    December 30, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  19. jobie

    Classy, folks.

    December 30, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  20. BeenThereDoneThat

    @Dominicanmama4Obama: "...Good journalists have long ago been buried"
    AMEN! We haven't had quality since Cronkite!

    December 30, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  21. Ronald Binkney

    It is a blessing anytime a child is adopted. Why should the political persuasion of the family matter?

    December 30, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  22. sandy

    that is unforgivable what they said about the baby!!! but im really not surpized coming from that station!! but REALLY talk like that about an innocent baby!!! thats about as low as i feel you can get!

    December 30, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  23. Dejavu65

    So all of a sudden all these racist GOP who dislike Obama mostly because his skin color want to act like they REALLY care if an black person is experiencing racism...what a a farce and joke 90% of their followers and supporters can't stand minorities...stop the FAKE outrage!!!!!!!

    December 30, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  24. Bob

    I don't care for Mitt as a politician, but these comments by Perry are unacceptable. No reason at all for them. I commend the Romney's for giving this child a chance in life that he would not have had. As for Perry, MSNBC would do good to can her. Her ratings do not even make the 250 charts at all.

    December 30, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. TCP

    How 'bout you "apologize" to the people you ACTUALLY offended you PIG. Such enlightened broadcasting by the uber-"intelligent", academic, left wing radical "network"...

    December 30, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
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