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. Doug

    I am tired of half apologies – the ones that say I am sorry IF . . . . They put the burden of offense squarely on those who have been offended. An apology should just be a very simple "I am sorry for my truly offensive remarks."

    December 31, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. retiree

    Rarely is comedy directed at children. Note how SNL made fun of Jimmy Carter's daughter. But when SNL went after Chelsea, "Babs" and others made certain that it stopped.

    This story is interesting from a political perspective in that it took reporting by right wing media get the so-called MSM to even report this. As many have posted above, who in the heck watches MSNBC in the first place?

    December 31, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. Pratt

    Romney deserves it...he's an anti-American and so is his family.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Jim Jimson

    I notice a lot of the 'liberals' on here trying to defend MSNBS for some reason. Quite pathetic that you think making fun of any child is funny especially when there are such clear racist overtones in the comments. Take your blinders off.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  5. Bubba Ray

    Hypocrisy of Republicans...always acting like racists, and now pretending to be outraged. Just as soon as they're finished with their faux outrage here they'll be over on some story about blacks or gays spewing their bigotry.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. Big_D

    Hopefully race will not be an issue as he navigates his life of privilege. I wonder how many second glances at the country club? I'm not sure the laughter is not out of nervousness for this child. Is this racism or a reflection of society problems we know we have.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  7. SouthRed

    I hope that America is finally starting to wake up to the direction the left is headed. This station has always been a left leaning station and believe they can get away with saying anything they want destroy family values as well as the Democracy in this country. It is time for Americans to show their disgust for people and media such as this who think they can say and do anything with no repercussion. Personally, I would like to see MSNBC off the air or a clean sweep of ALL management and reporters.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. jr

    Fox is biased, some commentators more than others, but there is not the same condescending nasty spirit or the degree of insults you see with MSNBC. CNN has enough liberal commentators and reporters (more than conservatives) and attempts to cover the issue more with both sides at least represented therefore MSNBC is not needed.

    December 31, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. Sajeev

    Everybody crucified Paula Deen for her remarks and what about this lady on national television. She should be sued and fired with immediate effect. She is an insensitive personwho thinks she could run her mouth probably like the way she does at home.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. alan

    pretty typical of MSNBC – the stool sample of network news shows...

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Barbara

    All I can say is that she sucks.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. bobsomeguy

    Not that our current president is anything to cheer about, but I don't think Romney would have been a good president either. I also strongly disagree with him on several issues. That being said, this was just disgusting and low class all the way. Absolutely uncalled for behavior and it will be a long time before I watch MSNBC again or even have it on as background noise.

    The talking heads on MSNBC have been on a real roll lately, they need to grow up.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  13. Anonymous

    to Sara Palin: shame on you for being you

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  14. Willa45

    "Captions anyone?" .... was an open invitation for the panel to engage in some 'ad hoc' and often entertaining bantering over a series of photos taken in 2013 (of Obama, Putin, Romney etc.).

    In her role as facilitator, Melissa Harris could have done a much better job to deflect so much insensitivity which instead she actually encouraged. In my opinion however, the biggest culprit here is the MSNBC staff member who put the Romney family picture on the "funny" list in the first place. Why? Because the "funny" in this case was presumably Mitt Romney (surrounded by all white family members) and one little black baby sitting on his knee! The intent was clearly racist and NOT funny at all.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. neoritter

    Let's not sugarcoat it here. Yes maybe overhyped, but the panelist going "One of these things is not like the others," is just racist. Call it like it is, racism pure and simple. The comment by the host, not that bad a little bit in poor taste, but it was mostly just unfunny (the whole segment was not funny). Obediah's comment, funny in a certain political light, but he basically implied the Romney's adopted the kid so they'd seem more diverse. Crass comment maybe at the most.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. Vince

    Seems like free speech to me...ala backwoods Phil.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |

    Personally, I think it would be better to never hear from or see her again.

    December 31, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. alan

    pretty typical of MSNBC – the bottom feeders of the cable news networks.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. chch

    The vile and small left shows its color...nothing unexpected from MSNBC

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. hkirwin


    All that pink and blue makes me want to puke.

    LOL...and what colors do you and grey maybe...LOL This person even hates colors, but they call themselves liberals.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Jennifer

    Is anyone else shocked by the number of grandchildren Romney has? I thought that was going to be the story... Didn't initially notice the adopted baby.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Virgil Murray

    I promise, this world is becoming SO sensitive and weak, especially in politics! There was NOTHING offensive about what was said. There were NO direct comments towards the race of the child. It was just an obvious fact that stood out that there was a black baby in the mix of all white people. So what if the baby is adopted. Had they all been adults and that same commet was made, it may not have gotten the same *stink eye*. WE are a world driven off Money and power and he has the most is in control.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. Aerosgrl

    How about this for a comment... "I'm lucky I got a chance at life"

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Photos to joke about

    Let's all crack a joke when we see a photo with Pres O and all the White people behind him.

    How would that go over if done by someone "white" on FoxNews?

    And, lets tell the story about Uncle Tom's cabin or Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby, while admiring a photo gallery of Barry and his closest friends.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  25. blamegame2016

    This is a familiar tactic in MSNBC's arsenal as of late. Insult, slander, demean, apologize. It's about as familiar to them as lather, rinse, repeat. This incident in particular really reveals the ugly bigotry within the ranks of the left. And what we have today are some very angry libs who have turned up their hatred to 11 since things aren't going so well for their living Muhammad in the white house. Whenever there is trouble with their quest to implement a Maoist totalitarian "utopia" the insults begin anew right along with their usual static of complete insanity and nauseating hypocrisy going on in the background.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106