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. shelbydawkins

    to sara Palin: Shame on you for being you.

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. Greg C.

    I'm not surprised by anything that MSNBC does these days...a bunch of self-absorbed, bitter whiners...I occasionally flip to their channel to hear who they are targeting with their venom; of course, they are predictable...

    December 31, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  3. sydco

    And then of course, you have Sarah doing her typical grandstanding...

    December 31, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  4. okeydokey

    Liberals are hypocrites

    I wonder if MSNBC will "indefinitely suspend" these hosts for making fun of an innocent child, and where are the celebrities speaking out against the hosts?

    Liberal, whoops I mean communist hypocrites.


    Yeah, right. Check into what the Bush campaign did to McCain back in 2000. You know, the id!ot you put in the white house. Twice Lots of wingnuts came to the defense of the poor little black kid back then. Not..

    December 31, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. Church of Suicidal

    "I was born a rich, white child..."

    December 31, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  6. Keith

    This conversation spawned by pure hate and anger toward the Republican Party. These moderators are a disgrace to the political process. Way to take the Low Road.
    This smug attitude and condescension from the far left is a big part of the divide we see in this country.
    Most Americans are moderate, centrists but this complete disregard for a guy who is no political threat is just weak and not pushing a left leaning agenda, it hurts it. "Do as we say Not as we do... ". If I was a democratic strategist, I would ask for the removal of the Melissa Perry from this forum on grounds that she is obviously NOT a moderate voice and does more harm than good in representing the democratic beliefs and ideals in a public forum.

    December 31, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. blamegame2016

    Whatever you're on? Cut the dose.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Sandy

    Phil stood up for his Christian beliefs and NOTHING else!! This particular freedom of speech borders racism. I believe that being gay is a choice. That doesn't mean that I hate them or treat them any different!! I have gays in the family. Everyone will be accountable in the end. Not for me to judge. This tiny little baby had NO choice, but to be born. God Bless this family for adopting him. We just adopted our daughter's son. She was 17 at the time she gave birth. I am also adopted. All dear to my heart.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  9. SnowyRiver

    MSNBC is filled with hate mongers. Can't even watch their shows. It is constant bombastic hateful rants. People out of control.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  10. hkirwin

    steve harnack

    Oh please. All of this fake outrage is just making me sick. They didn't say one word that wasn't true and glaringly obvious. Every one of the people complaining about it used far worse language and said real insulting things. I pity the poor kid growing up in that stiff necked bunch, it's simply more Pharisee behavior from a family of thieves.

    So this is a Liberal????????

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Belvarie Varnado asked:

    One question. I assumed the baby was a girl because it's dressed in pink. But after reading further and seeing another picture I realized he is a boy. Why did they dress him in pink?
    Good question. If you look closer, then you will notice that depending upon the age of the child, the child was dressed in a different type of matching outfit. The youngest of them all seem to be wearing those pinkish looking jumpsuits. Notice the kids out of diapers who are wearing plaid shirts. Notice the kids of school age are wearing matching outfits, depending upon their sex.

    I think a better question is why is it that they gave the child a name, Kieran, that means black.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  12. Mark

    If these people used a word 30years ago they'd be unemployed but when we mock white people at the expense of a loved baby who doesn't know color they get a short side column.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. ngeorgianow

    Let's just take the baby out onto the playground and point at him and laugh and joke...."He's different, he's not the same as the others, isn't he an oddball in his own family!" That sounds like what happened here except it was done by adults, in front of millions of people to a perfectly innocent baby. He was USED to hurt the image and character of Mitt Romney's family. He was USED to get a laugh, he was ridiculed for being adopted into a family. This is a sad day that NBC and Microsoft are okay with that.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  14. Public Opinion

    Shame on MSNBC for another disgusting and contemptible display of bigotry. MSNBC is disgusting network.

    December 31, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. Anna

    Dear Dean Obeidallah, Any apology that includes "I'm sorry if you..." is not really an apology. You're still blaming the people who were offended for your asinine behavior. I don't like Romney; I think he's an elitist ass hat, but I'm pretty sure you could have made the same point about the RNC without using a baby as the seed of your joke. Love, Me

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. Rob

    I can't help but wonder why they chose to adopt a black child. I'm betting it was more of a PR move than for legitimate reasons. I'm guessing they joked about it because his adoption doesn't seem genuine, at least it doesn't seem genuine to me.

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. stephen stephenson

    classless liberals, will call anyone out for being politically incorrect and insensitive until they do it themselves and they deem it okay because the victim is not a minority. unbelieveable

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. liz

    Sounds like free speech to me.

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  19. fabri376

    Conservatives are very "sensitive" when somebody else makes jokes about them; nevertheless, they have made the most horrendous and insensitive comments about everybody and they defend those comments with passion.So, why not to make them taste the bitterness of those same comments that are just jokes and do not have malice?.

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  20. maggie

    I find it interesting because they are making jokes about a child who can't defend himself...from that standpoint it should be off limits. If they want to make jokes about the lack of diversity in republican party that is fine. I have a Mormon friend who adopted an African American baby boy. Living in a northern conservative state mostly populated by white folks.....she adopted knowing of course all the stares and the questions...but she looks directly back at people and says "he is my flesh and blood" I am so proud of her.

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. Sean S

    Sharpton?? Rev Jackson?? Obama???

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. rob

    Its funny that some people do not see the story here
    Let me break it down for you...
    Those that cry "racism!" the loudest are usually the bigot.
    If a black family had adopted a white child and a white person joked about it.... "oh, the humanity"

    December 31, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  23. David Wallenstein

    Don't we all have something more important to flame each other about?

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. JSmith

    Where is Jesse Jackson? He is all over Phil Robertson's comment. Come on Jesse lets get on top of this and demand they be removed from the show??????

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. headdesk

    that should be – they named him "little dark one"? That is so sweet~

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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