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. Christy R

    Wow. Just wow! What horrible nonsense from MSNBC. And the people ragging on the Romneys – get over yourselves! This is his GRANDCHILD!!! WOW.. you people need to get a life and smile more often instead of being bitter and angry over every little thing that isn't going your way. Conspiracy theories abound!

    Congratulations to the Romney family on their new addition. A child that wasn't wanted has now found a loving home where opportunities will be around every corner!

    December 31, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. Jim

    A moderate Independent who has twice voted for Obama, I find MSNBC no less biased or reprehensible on the left than Fox News on the right. Both bring an ideology to the news that would mortify Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley & Davis Brinkley, and their like. Both should be called out for their dumpster "journalism." I find this incident especially reprehensible. Somebody needs to get fired.

    December 31, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. Unamused

    Cool, MSNBC is on same level as SNL Weekend Update. Not sure who will lose ratings. No shame in "journalism" these days. People like that failed at the Improv and now we have to deal with them trying to make the news "funny". It was never intended to be, how about just trying to be informative and impartial? Bet there would be a whole lot less apologizing to do if they did, not just MSNBC either. All of them.

    December 31, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. Lionel

    Clearly, the Republicans wants to add some diversity.

    Where is the uproar when Fox News refers to Obama as Hitler and all the other racist comments. It is free speech when they do it but when others do it they have to apologize. I see how this works.

    It seems like the pot calling the kettle black. This baby will be used by Republicans no doubt. It is however good that the Romneys have adopted this child and no doubt will give him a good life.

    December 31, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. faux scandals

    America has become a nation of cry babies,"mommy, mommy, Johnny hit me."

    December 31, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. mypitts2

    "OK, they apologized. I'm still waiting for the "slut" apology from Rush Limbaugh ..."

    @dzerres: Can't stand Rush, but he did apologize for the "slut" comment against Sandra Fluke. Twice in fact. It was clear he had to do it to save his gig, b/c advertisers were dropping left and right. He doesn't apologize for much, but did that time.

    December 31, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. bibleverse1

    Where did they find that many shirts the same color and pattern? Did they make them out of drapes. Looks like the Von Trapps.

    December 31, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. Ruthann Adamsky

    But, Mrs. Palin, all these people were exercising their freedom of speech. I thought you were in favor of that; or is it that people are only free to say things you agree with?

    December 31, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. ME

    A disgusting display of the social media and she should be FIRED !!!!!
    Congratulations to the Romney's on there new grandchild you you provide a wonder home for him.

    December 31, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. rob

    The true racists don't like it when they have to watch their language

    December 31, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Mother of an adopted black child

    This is so offensive! I can't believe they all had the audacity to participate in such childish behavior. Grow up!

    December 31, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. allaneddie

    It's MSNBC, what do you expect except hatred?

    December 31, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  13. IcanBelieveThisIsTheLeft

    One thing that is true about the whole thing: MSNBC is as left as left goes and will say whatever it takes to keep their Lefty friends (all 12 of them) thinking they are the norm.

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. Neil Norman

    Once again, our media displays a lack of understanding and insensitivity of the culture in which we live

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. T Jeff

    Funny how those who championed Phil Robertson for speaking his mind are now outraged by a stupid joke. Just goes to show you that not only ignorant rednecks say stupid things - no matter how funny they are.

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Nguoinhaque

    When people learn how to say appropriately? She should be fired like ex-exec Justin Sacco.

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. shawn

    I watched MHP when she first came on to MSNBC and liked her fresh perspective, but she is now caught up so tightly into her own hubris, like so many of her MSNBC counterparts, this is what we get. Boooo. I never liked Romney and never voted for him, but this is simply uncalled for.

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Mervin

    I think it's in that grey zone and very glib. They said what people may have said lounging around their home. It's not exactly offensive but would I have said it on tv? Probably not. It was a little funny, I admit but I don't think that means they were making fun of adoption. There is also the problem that "you can't say anything anymore" without it being offensive but glad she apologized, even to be safe.

    December 31, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. PC

    If your cast were leaning a tad more to the left you'd fall off the face of the planet...I'm an independent voter....but this is way out of line...first it was the ex governor of Alaska now Mr. Romney and his family. Grow up. I will never watch anything on your network again. No class what so ever.

    December 31, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  20. Bdubs

    You can take a rose glass view of the world and say this is just another child adopted to loving parents or you can see it for what it really is. My only question is will this grandchild be afforded the same benefits, rights, and inheritance of his/her equal.

    December 31, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. Joey Atchley

    What was that old saying...."If you can't say something good about someone, then don't say anything at all..."

    These news networks are all greed motivated. They can't just report the news, they need to constantly create controversy to keep ratings up. I for one am tired of their crud. This nation is being divided at a time when EVERYONE needs to be coming together to fix all the problems.

    Fire everyone in Washington, D.C., outlaw PAC's and lobby groups, turn off ALL of these biased news networks and go out every day doing what is good and right. We need more men like Washington and Jefferson. The USA is still the best country in the world if we work together to make it so!!! Respect and honor each other and live the Golden Rule. Doing what is right is usually not the easy choice, but it is what is necessary for this country to have a future.

    I know that this is what I'm going to do. How about you?

    December 31, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Common Sense Blogger

    To all of the misguided leftists that try to defend MSNBC by equating their channel with FOX News : THEY ARE NOT COUNTERPARTS! Fox is a conservative counterpart to NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and CNN. MSNBC is a vomitious left-wing propaganda machine that has no reigns on its vindictive, racist, sophomoric and immature on-air personalities. Furthermore, to suggest that Fox personnel spew the same garbage as these amateurs is laughable – please present some proof! I watch both channels equally and it is becoming harder to digest the ridiculous rantings and character bashings on MSNBC. Fox always performs with greater professionalism and actually is FAR more balanced by inviting guests from BOTH sides to debate issues. These are just a few of the reasons Fox's ratings are destroying MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. blueivories

    I'm a hardcore Democrat, and I think this segment was horribly ill-advised. You don't mock people's families, and even if that were somehow okay, the point the panelists were trying to make is asinine – it can't have been a political move by Mitt Romney, because he is no longer running for anything, and he wasn't the one who did the adopting. To the extent the panelists were trying to make a point about diversity in the Republican party by making fun of Mitt Romney's grandson, I repeat: you don't mock people's families. It's callous and inappropriate. At the very least, the producer who thought this was a good idea needs to be out of a job super fast.

    December 31, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. gcrow

    Who she supposed to apologize to? The only people watching were the MSNBC crew.

    December 31, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Big_D

    You know this wouldn't be a story if FOX didn't have staff hired to watch MSNBC. I also wonder if comedy shows are why FOX has such high ratings too.

    December 31, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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