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. harpomang

    As a white conservative, I found Obeidallah's comment... actually kinda funny.

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. TonyTheTiger

    What you talking about Willis?

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  3. Vivian Prather

    Melissa and her panel should be fired!!!!

    December 31, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. Lucas

    I'm glad they apologized for their rude, uncalled-for comments. Now if they would just apologize to Phil Robertson for slandering him with a comment he made six years ago, which they took out of context just to spite the man for his views on LGBT, then I will be satisfied.

    December 31, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Chris C

    MSNBC has turned into the most racist news organization of our time. I'm sure Ms. Glenn would never consider adopting a child of another race. Class act.....

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. One one

    This is the verbal equivalent of throwing darts at a picture of the Romney family, something I might expect from catty 7th grade girls. Perry and MSNBC, a real class(less) act.

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    You guys still talking about this bs?
    Friday came early to CNN.
    Just checking....
    Meh, I'm just happy that whomever the mother was chose life... and I'm certain this beautiful child did as well.

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |

    Why wouldn't MSNBC attack Romney's family. They attack all conservatives or republicans. If this had happened on Fox, the rest of the media would be shredding Fox, but it's MSNBC and most of the media is liberal so Hey, What's the big deal. Secondly, personal attacks vs. attacks on people's behavior/policy is standard practice for MSNBC. No big news there either.

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. Fake outrage

    Can't wait for this era of fake outrage based on political affiliation passes. Phil Roberson says he never saw African Americans suffer at the hand of Jim Crow – Right Wingers line up to defend his right to freedom of speech
    Commentators point out an obvious publicity stunt by Romney – (until recently the mormon religion taught that all blacks were cursed by the way)- Right Wingers are suddenly outraged? Huh?. Can we focus on the real issues for once? BTW I understand the family aspect, but Romney has said some pretty obviouse things about his thoughts on minorities soooo sorry if I don't buy it. If this is sincere and someone else doesn't run for office I will be surprised.

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Dave-O

    Of all the things they could have joked about in that cheesy picture they decided to zero in on the black kid. Shameful really.

    December 31, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. JSmith

    It's ok for hkirwin to say YOU SUCK ROMNEY, but I can't speak my mind. You guys suck and are one sided. I'm not even a Republican.

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. jamie

    Way to go MSNBC. People forgive but do not forget. Why was this wicked comment made anyway? If it was on A&E you would have been fired. Poof MSNBC ...... blow away

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. matyellott

    Funny thing is that if the family was 100% Caucasian that would have been an issue for them as well. Hate is hate these people hate Mitt Romney, let me make that distinction clear they do not just disagree with Mot Romney on political issues or religious preference they hate him. Because they hate him they no longer view him as a human being to be respected for different points of view or as a man whose faith most likely makes him a much better person they the rest of us, they view him as a object of contempt and they dehumanize him. They assign him with everything they want him to stand for so they can hate him more (Racism, Sexism, Religious Intolerance) remember the “binder of women” comment? Sure you do, do you remember the context (that Mitt Romney was looking to diversify his organization’s workforce by seeking out and brining in a women’s point of view for senior level management positions…. probably not. We you hate a person you can attack them for their religion, for their race, and for their fundamental belief structures because you are no longer viewing that individual as a person. Rather as an object of contempt. Frankly I see a family who is far more open and accepting then many members of the population, if you cannot see that Mitt Romney and his family are by all accounts fundamentally good people (just like Barrack Obama and his family) then you may have an issue dealing with hate and prejudice.

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. LWJR

    Mean Spirited people at MSNBC. Narcissists all, a 4 person flash mob. Pia Glenn an obvious racist with a lot of hate in her soul.

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. roquero66

    Insensitive and tactless comments? Yes, but let's not forget that the real villain here is Romney and his corporatist toadyism, completely indifferent and callous towards children, African-Americans, and humanity in general. These bloated plutocrats should be taxed out of existence and the money used to address the urgent issues (poverty, ignorance, climate deterioration, racism, militarism, unemployment, just to name a few) that face our country and our world.

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Nathan

    I wish Mitt Romney was our president...........

    December 31, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. FoxNews

    Mean Spirited people at MSNBC. Narcissists all, a 4 person flash mob. Pia Glenn an obvious racist with a lot of hate in her soul.

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. Mark P

    According to Megyn Kelly, there's only one person in that picture that can't be Santa when he grows up...

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Rob

    It's funny how the right wing stiffs get so up in arms when a liberal zings them. This uptightendness is EXACTLY why you guys are so easy to make fun of.

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  20. sly

    Ho ho ho ... kinda thought the comments were funny.

    And who cares about Romney? Billionaire who pays no taxes? Typical Rich Republican.

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. Len

    Time to take these individuals and show them the door .. They don't represent MSNBC and should not be on air esposing thier SICK opinions.. There are plenty of people waiting in the "Wings" to get on air and be neutral..

    These two indviduals are "Sick" and really need some counseling so they understand that THEY are not that important in this world, nor is their opinion when broadcast publically.

    Time for MSNBC to hand out the "Help Wanted" sign again ..

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  22. GOP = Greed Over People

    This is a teaching moment.

    When a con criticizes gays and blacks, he is "exercising his freedom of speech".

    When a lib mocks a rich family, they should be fired from her job and is "dispicable".

    Moral: Cons approve of "freedom of speech" except when it is directed at a rich, white family!

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  23. One one

    Imagine if Fox News put up a picture of the Obama family and made fun of it, with a focus on one of the children.

    December 31, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. LLS

    Not a big deal to any of you commenters until it happens to you. You all love to hate them because they have money. GO make some of your own money and stop being haters!

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Ohio Fenian

    @Sean S: Jackson and Sharpton, Jackson and Sharpton, Jackson and Sharpton, Jackson and Sharpton...someone please lift the needle on the rightwing broken record.

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
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