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. jcinde

    Just more phony outrage from the phony outrage machine.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. Evervigilant

    If the shoe were on the other foot the person who made the joke would already be out of a job.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. Kitty

    To the jerks asking where Sharpton and Jesse are, when is the last time you saw either of them speak out about anything? Stop being ridiculous! And stop showing that you live in the past! I agree with some others, this FAKE outrage is really pathetic! Nobody on here cares about the Romneys or that baby, you're just using them to do your usual bashing and hate mongering. Is Rush on yet? Sit down and listen so he can tell you what to think about this.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Big_D

    What I don't like is that every person in this photo will have more money than I ever will and they will never have to work a day for it or pay half the tax rate I do. It must be wonderful to be part of the privileged class of the USA. Low taxes and the political favors just keep helping the money grow. I am tired of being middle class and working hard at keeping them up. Maybe it would be better if the USA collapsed. It isn't helping us people much any more, just the rich.

    December 31, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. Dan

    As a republican and a comedian the rule is simple. If you get a laugh than it is acceptable. Dean's joke about republican diversity made me laugh so he's good. The others were all just lame and racist.

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. Tony

    Just saying, you should stop projecting your own beliefs and feelings onto others. If MSNBC needs to apologize, so do you. If what the MSNBC people have said is hateful, so is your statement. The MSNBC people were joking. They should apologize regardless, and did apologize. You hate MSNBC, and it is coming out loud and clear.

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. Mistro

    MSNBC and its hosts are a joke – this just further helps to prove this station has NOTHING to offer that is worth watching or hearing.

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. Natalie

    Wah, wah. Americans are always whining, complaining, finger pointing and b-tching about something. Who cares what who said?

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. willard22

    Wow Matt! I love this response. Any time a conservative says something that draws criticism, race to judge and blow the thing up. If a lib says or does something disgusting like this the stock lefty response is "Arent there bigger things going on in the world today?" There certainly are Matt and I bet MHP is sitting at home wishing she had picked one to focus on instead of making fun of a little kid or his family's decision to adopt him.

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Jim McDonald

    Hate, Envy and false humility. The true cornerstones of liberal existence.

    December 31, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. Megamind

    OK... I'm waiting for Jesse Jackson to show up and "demand" justice for the child and the adoptive family! Is he going to "demand" a meeting with MSNBC? I'll bet the farm that the (so-called) Rev. Jackson will not be found on this story. Which, by the way, is just rude and arrogant of the people on this MSNBC show.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. sofork

    I think Romney would have been a great president. Unfortunately we are stuck with Pinocchio for 3 more years.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. Jim

    I didn't know they started letting black people into the Mormon Church.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Hopeless Fool

    Oh No! Liberals say one thing and do another! What a shocker! Another great example of the Democratic party and their democratic beliefs.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  15. harleydavidson

    MSN Who? You people still watch them?

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Just another example of the hate and anger from the left... who then blame the republicans for their hate and anger. Ridiculous... how could any sensible person belong to such a hateful side of society? It's sickening.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. Bobilino

    Nothing more ironic than a group of morally confused smug liberals who have made their entire careers pulling the race card being so aloof that they sit on national TV making blatantly racist comments and not realizing it is horribly offensive. Racism goes both ways, though apparently not on MSNBC and definitely not in the minds of any of these affirmative action victory stories.

    December 31, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. Oneotherthing

    Would MSNBC have preferred it if they adopted the baby and then kept him out of the family picture?

    December 31, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. Jon

    @Aaric Yup, you got it! The Romney's went out and adopted Kieran for the sole purpose of this single photo. Maybe your anger comes from being jealous of this young boy, knowing that he will have a better life than you could have ever made for yourself?

    December 31, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Samwell

    It was funny, get over yourselves. It was a damn joke and no one should take it seriously. That's what's wrong with this country now. All the bleeding, liberal, heart, feeling sorry for yourselves. Get the heck over it!

    December 31, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. RogerD

    Harris-Perry your apology sucks! Your proof the left has no moral character.

    December 31, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Jane

    can you imagine if it were fox, commenting on somebody like John Kerry or Al Gores grandchildren. the entire Hollywood community would take to twitter, talk shows and award ceremonies to show the rest of us heathen American working class how to think, live and float through life, with the greatest of sanctimonious ease like they do.

    December 31, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Big_D

    Don't forget to take a picture of the car elevator in the garage while you're there!

    December 31, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. Reality

    It's sad that our so called "news/media" has nothing better to do, than to attack someone such as Mitt Romney by using his adopted child. The same would go for any other adoptive parent who has different political views. Or better yet, bring on a "political analyst" to "discuss" this issue. Plus, let's have one news anchor "defend" the trashy, tasteless comment made. Did it ever occur to the news media, if you pull your own head out of your rear end, you can actually breath much easier?

    But yet our own "news media" chooses not to address or support adoptee rights. It must be more of a "taboo subject" than gay and lesbians getting married? The news should be all over adoptee rights, and how some adult adoptees rights are being violated, but we don't hear about this because.....?

    For example, an adult adoptee born in Alabama, Kansas, or Illinois has the right to their original birth certificate. But an adult adoptee in Iowa, Missouri, or New York (and so on) are denied that same right? Shouldn't it be a basic human right to at least know your past (if the information is available)?

    Bottom line, our news stations are more about speculation and ratings, than subject matter.

    December 31, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. FT

    Who cares about MSNBC? Never watched. And I mostly vote Democrat.

    December 31, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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