December 30th, 2013
05:27 PM ET
8 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. scoot27

    What was MSNBC trying to say, Caucasion republican families should never adopt any minorities to ensure the appearance of racism continues?

    December 31, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. BSH

    You will never see more vile hate speech, intolerance, and bigotry than that which comes from the political left. Sad but true.

    December 31, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. timmy

    The American people got played by the liberals last election, who tricked them in to believing conservatives, particularly mormons, are racist. The truth is, mormons, like most conserviatives, dont care what race someone is. A lot of mormon families have adopted black kids. Why? Because they only care about families, regardless of race. And there are plenty of black kids who need to be adopted because liberals apparently dont want them.

    December 31, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. rob

    The true racists in the audience today are getting testy for being called out.
    ....if you didn't have your "racism is everywhere" blanket, you would havepto take responsibility for your pwn shortcomings

    December 31, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. John

    Gotta love that personal Twitter apology. I understand the need to protect your social image but it seems like this is just a way for networks to grab media attention. #twittersucks

    December 31, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. alan

    I want the woman fired immediately. Not that what she said wasnt funny as heck but if the situation were reversed and a republican had said the same joke, the liberals would be screaming their lungs out what a racist, what a racist.

    December 31, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. MNClownfactory

    As a fan of MSNBC it would be easy to sit back and say "hey people need to lighten up" or "republicans have no sense of humor". As asupporter of diversity why would you poke fun of the lack of color in the Republican party by teasing a part of the party that is actually bridging that gap? MSNBC needs to understand WHEN it is appropriate to joke and WHEN it is not, this is one thing Faux Noise folks like Rush, Sean H, and Glenn Beck (no longer with Faux) had trouble with all the time which made them easy game for late night TV.
    Unless the announcers of MSNBC realize that is why folks are leaving FOX and joinning MSNBC is because FOX has NO boundaries to its lies, its guest host and opinion broadcasters have and it offends too many poeple Too often. They will lose their new listeners as well.

    December 31, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. Seth

    Why is this even a story. Yawn.

    December 31, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Virgina

    What gives the media the right to comment on anyone's grandchild – what's so funny? The fact that they have the ability and money to be able to afford to give any child a better future. He worked for what he has as apposed to the majority of the democrats who just take it from those that have it! Yes Obama will level the field, we'll all be less than middle class when he gets done.

    December 31, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Bill

    Big_D. Go out and get rich then instead of complaining. Geesh. You have opportunities yet you waste time on a chat board about Romney's tax rate. Romney gets that tax rate because of the US tax code. He donates to charities so poor and underprivileged can benefit and gets to write that off. If you made any money you could take deductions as well instead of taking tax credits off the back of real tax payers.

    December 31, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. NC Guy1

    You have to love the left who can say anything. The media bias would be outraged if Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh said anything close to this. Hypocrisy is alive and well in CNN and the left wing drive by media.

    December 31, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. Rick

    Same as I said about the flap over Phil Robertson's comments. Americans are free to speak their minds without demands for them to be fired. I didn't agree with Robertson's statements and I don't agree with the MSNBC commentators' statements. Nobody advocated hate, violence, or restriction of people's rights-which would have led me to support a call for suspension or firing. I wish people could desist from knee-jerk reactions and calls for firing if anybody says something they don't like.

    December 31, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. BostonDan

    What a bunch of classless, self absorbed jerks.

    December 31, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. DustyOnes

    Who is the racist? MSNBC all along.

    December 31, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Figures

    It's sad... despite being someone who generally loathes the policies of the Right, it's so disheartening to see the Left so constantly and consistently demeaning of anyone who disagrees with them. They just can't separate the issues from the people who hold them. They're so scathingly hateful. And what's worse is how massively hypocritical they are in doing so.

    December 31, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. wendel

    well I guess mittens plans to run again. they had to wait until the church recognized black people. will he be part of the 47%???????? if palin weighs in it must be so.

    December 31, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. sly

    Ha ha ha - the comments were indeed funny. And who the heck is Mitt Romney?

    December 31, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. pheenx

    MSNBC was wrong mocking the Romneys HOWEVER...what's the meaning of the little boy's name..Keiran? That's the real story. Why that name?

    December 31, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. jcambro

    Why can't the liberals on shows like this see that they exhibit all the negative characteristics they so casually assign to their political opponents? The crass cynicism, the arrogance, the false sense of superiority, the rank prejudice and hard-hearted cruelty they use to label guys like Mitt Romney, are all on display here on their programs, from their own mouths.

    And from what I can gather, even from the anti-Romney coverage here, Mitt Romney and his family are far better people than Melissa Harris Perry could ever hope to be.

    And it's not just this episode. Everyone on MSNBC criticizes others for greed and wealth, when they themselves are greedy and wealthy. They talk about the "old boys networks" and connections used by the rich and powerful, when they are describing themselves.

    The lowest of the always-low-rated MSNBC anchors makes more money than most working Americans can dream of. And unlike many working Americans, they do their jobs with no sense of professional integrity – not as journalists as we might understand the term – but as lackeys for a government they refuse to challenge or question. They are the elitists. They rely on tired phrases like "speak truth to power," when they are in fact the people in power. Hypocrisy, thy name is MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. justdivin

    Shameful...adoption should be a joyous occasion. I will never get my news from MSN again. This is border-line bullying.

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. Snoop

    Melissa Harris Perry is the real joke, not what she said.

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Nameabdizee

    So sad they will be on air again with followers! The pot calling the kettle black that's CNN for you!

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. MichaelF

    i'm a black man from NJ and i think she should be fired. there is no excuse for a semi intelligent person to do this.

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. jerry

    how come everyone that speaks the facts or truth nowadays has to apologize

    December 31, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. Donald

    This kind of ugliness is why I left the Democratic part. You cam disagree with the mans politics, but to ridicule him for having a son who wanted to share his love with ANY child without regard to ethnicity. Have we forgotten everything we ALL worked for in the 60s &70s? Race is not a joke or punch line. We are one people, it is about time we acted like it. Celebrating ones heritage is a wonderful thing. It shows others where we came from. What will we show to others what we can be? I hope your producers take a long look at their rules of conduct for their shows personalities. Good luck.

    December 31, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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