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. Big_D

    By the way this did happen on the other side and much worse, I remember a "nappy headed ho" comment from somebody that still has a show. How quick the GOP forgets that. They can't even remember the fat boy said that.

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. JJ

    seems pretty harmless to me.

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. Bob

    I'm betting that if a conservative leaning personality / station made these remarks there would be a national outrage

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. Alison

    For once, I agree with Sarah Palin.

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. Jeff Bragg

    Ah, the hypocrisy. Aren't the people bashing the MSNBC host supposed to be screaming First Amendment rights? The father figure of Duck Dynasty utters homophobic and racist remarks (which he was serious about) and the FOX Noise machine erupts in hysteria over his First Amendment rights being violated. An MSNBC host make s a joke (in admittedly poor taste) and once again, the FOX Noise machine erupts in hysteria, this time over the host not being fired.

    I guess that free speech is only applicable when you like the person and what they're saying.

    December 31, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Lou

    It's all sweet and all that Mitt's daughter wanted to adopt however looking at the family photo the kid appears as if he was an afterthought at first glance. Am happy for Mitt's family, wish them well...

    December 31, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Did the Romney's complain about it? Maybe they didn't know about the remarks until now. I don't find anything offensive about the remarks mocking a marriage with North West. Not unless you find the idea of adding more blacks to the Romney family offensive.

    For those of you complaining about apologizing via Twitter, I hae two things to say. First and foremost, give her credit, give all of them credit for making an apology, which is something that conservatives NEVER do. Second, her show only broadcasts on the weekend. Would you prefer that they remain silent until that time?

    December 31, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. RogerD

    Left or Right, Dem's or Rep's. Does not matter. This was cruel & sick behavior. If this had been committed on a conservative show it would have been an out right crime and Holder would have been called in to prosecute someone. How do these people sleep at night-

    December 31, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. live4grace

    They are not sorry. The Romneys are too gracious to sue but they could. Someone should lose his/her job over this. If that doesn't happen, it is de facto condoned.

    December 31, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. OK


    I think it isn't so much about the child than the GOP sees a golden opportunity to use the child. Let's see if this kid grows up to want to be a GOP member, he will certainly have the money(at least I assume he will).


    ding ding ding ding

    We have a winner.

    The Bush campaign did not hesitate to resort to tactics far more hurtful for to gain political advantage by making hateful allegations about a black child. More Faux outrage.

    December 31, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Obvious

    Just like anything else left wing crazy, MSNBC is collapsing all by itself.

    December 31, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Sick Rantorum

    Romney is diversifying his cult of personality. Or is it the cult of Mormon?

    December 31, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. Keith

    People are way too quick to get offended over everything these days. But when I read the headline, I immediately thought of the 2000 republican presidential primary when Bush's campaign claimed McCain's adopted black daughter was actually his illegitimate black daughter in an attempt to stir up racial bigotry in the south. Of course it ended up working.

    December 31, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. aertzc

    Some of the comments on this board are absurd. If this had been said by a conservative commentator about the family of a Democratic politician, people would be dusting off the guillotine right now. But since Harris-Perry is on the blue team everybody's making excuses for her.

    December 31, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  15. Manny

    For centuries or millenia people have known there is no such thing as an apology. It is only an attempt on the part of the insulting person or organization to save their own face, stature and standing in society (if there ever was one). Every day on the golfcourse a few bufforns try to apologize for insults they use as gamesmanship instead of learning how to play better and be a decent member of a group. No different in the media, except more loudly amplified.

    December 31, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  16. ColoRN

    MSNBC continues to plow to new lows on stupidity,insensitivity and outright lies and bias... some how they continue to get away with it. The liberal left; ANYTHING is a target to them... should the right make a remark about Insane obama's family and it would be met with cries of racism from MSNBC, CNN and all the media outlets in Obummer's pocket!
    For the most part; JOURNALISM IS DEAD IN THIS COUNTRY! REPLACED by bigots, brain dead pathogens with a political axe to grind and NOT INTERESTED IN FACTS and TRUTH!

    December 31, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. Some black guy

    Wow this is not as serious as people are making this out to be. I thought the comments were funny and didnt take more then that as funny, not racist, biggot, or what ever people are calling it. I guess people can't make jokes without affending lame people. I apploud mitt for adopting this beautiful child and it an awesome thing to do but you have to admit the kid sticks out like black guy at a heavy metal concert LOL <<<==== joke and yeah i was easly identifiable at a heavy metal conert cause im a black that was at an Etown concrete concert in NJ. Its healthy to laugh people!!!

    December 31, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  18. Jme

    Typical liberal racists people haters. It's all that comes out of their mouths.

    December 31, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. TCT

    This has nothing to do with the Romney family. This has everything to do with a child who will likely grow up feeling "glaringly" different. MSNBC should apologize to the child, not the family within which she is a valued member.

    December 31, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Blame Guilt Shame

    So, does anyone want to blame George Bush for this?

    No surprise if you did.

    We need more people like these panelists on MSNBC.

    They are great for our country.

    Give Melissa a promotion and more money. Make her an executive. She deserves it. She apologized, isn't that good enough?

    May be she is up for adoption, there is always more room at the Romney house.

    December 31, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. betterdays

    Any African-American, regardless of age, who is not poor, gay, transgendered, incarcerated, a singer, an athlete, a comedian, an actor, a Democrat politician, an addict or a talk show host is fair game for ridicule on MSNBC. That's how they roll, and this baby gets no exemption.

    December 31, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Sue

    The liberals are clueless. Just like when they accused Phil Robertson of being racist for saying that "he, personally" did not see poor, African Americans being treated badly when he was a kid-because he was just as poor as they were and working right along/beside them--and that all people looked for God/religion to help them deal with some of their problems, not the government. Phil did NOT say that there was not racism against blacks-he said that HE personally did not see it. This is especially true when Phil Robertson's family also has a black, teenage boy in their family (look at pictures of his family)-which means that someone adopted him or had a relationship with a woman of "color" (as the liberals would say).

    December 31, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. Bertha

    Really bad journalism. I don't like the Romney's, but these comments were uncalled for.

    December 31, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  24. Sissi

    Those who say they're "sorry for having offended..." aren't really sorry at all. It's a backhanded apology.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. George

    If you hold FOXNews and company to the same standard as other networks do, they would be off the air because there would not be any hosts to do the shows.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
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