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. ram

    You know, the song and some of the things said weren't okay. Most of what was said was aimed at the GOP, but of course that won't matter to anyone waiting to pounce on MHP or MSNBC. But no, it wasn't okay and notice that MHP apologized right away and without excuses.

    December 31, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. mark edwards

    Another reason why MSNBC is third in a 3 horse race. These are the real racists in America today while pointing fingers at everyone else.

    December 31, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. HM8432

    I'm surprised the race-baiters MSNBC haven't taken a stab at Phil Robertson's adopted African-American grandson yet! Their hypocritical 'Do as I say, not as I do' shtick is getting tiresome, it's no wonder they're last place in news ratings.

    December 31, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. John

    Where are all the NAACP commentators on this one? If this was a conservative host that made this comment, the sky would be falling. Hypocrisy rules here. Freedom of speech is paramount, so I am thankful idiots like this can speak, but let's be realistic about the obvious hypocrisy.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. Stafa60

    Anyway, I don't see anything really offensive about the panelists' comments. In any case, judging from the photo, the baby will grow up to be rich, "white," and dorky, and that isn't the worst fate one can have.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. kiskak

    This is why I stopped watching MSNBC long ago. I am a true liberal, but they've turned into a reverse version of Fox and its a real (no pun intended) turn-off. Their ratings are tanking – could this possibly be one of the reasons why? Time for an overhaul – which would include conscious movement more to the center.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. renegade98

    I think most realize that we need to start dumping the mainstream media and the cable news networks now that most everyone can gather their own news. Most of it is now just entertainment oriented. Dumping MSNBC, CNN, FOX and the 3 major networks would not be much of a loss for news gathering.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Jeff

    Come on Left Wing, condemn the actions of these people... Show the world that you are not hipocrites....

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. Kelly

    Those 3 anchors should be fired.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. dkc_2001

    Almost as easy to find as a black guy in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. Or a straight guy in it for that matter.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    I'm a Liberal and love MSNBC, but this was simply classless and tacky. Adoption is common in Mormon families; one of my Mormon convert cousins adopted two black kids and even though I don't agree with most of the teachings of that faith, I know those kids are well-loved and well cared for. I hope the same for the Romney grandson (who's adorable, BTW).

    Apologies accepted – NEXT!

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. skyatimus

    Really? That's it? I agree the remarks were insensitive, but there was no evil intent to hurt or otherwise malign. It was an attempt to get a few giggles at the expense of being sensitive. It was wrong, but hardly the monstrous issue the media and the right wing are trying to portray it as. And it's silly that the party in open, unabashed warfare with the voting rights of blacks and other minorities are somehow trying to make MHP and guests out to be the ones who are being racists.

    December 31, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. Guest

    this is why their ratings are so bad.

    December 31, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. Don

    She should apologize to us for that silly lisp she has when speaking.

    December 31, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  15. Mel Stricker

    We all have had those moments when what comes out of our mouths, in retrospect, reaches a level so low you cannot believe you sad that.
    I don't, for one moment, think these people are insensitive but just had a juvenile moment.
    Of course the other media outlets (Like CNN) will take full advantage of the gaffe.

    December 31, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Mike

    I don't believe adoption is the best way to go...its not natural. Just give the parents good jobs, pay reasonable wages, and people will be able to take care of their own.

    December 31, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. Jim

    So why are MSNBC hosts held to higher standards than to those on Fox? Questionable things are said by MSNBC but those on Fox don't relay a single truth and it's acceptable! Bring back Martin Bashir.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. bigdog

    I'm certainly no fan of Romney or the GOP, but MSNBC was out of line and needed to apologize. That being said, that's a lot more than the GOP pundits ever apologized for for all the cheap shots they've made at Obama and the Dems.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. N. Shalabi

    This is a completely tasteless joke, if it was meant to be a joke. It is one thing to be a liberal, but it is not acceptable to be a dumb liberal. I am a democrat and I don't appreciate stupid racist jokes.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. DrEvill007

    MSNBC offers nothing but bigotry and hatred that is usually directed against conservatives and whites which raises no concerns.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. tampamike

    I find this entire thing a commentary on this country. So when a duck dynasty star disparages gays and blacks its a freedom of speech issue (which I agree with although I won't watch these ignorant folks) but when a black host who was also born into a white morman family makes a joke about the rommneys its an outrage...really, what the hell is the difference ( and I don't agree with her statement either). The point is directed at blacks and gays okay directed at a whilte family not ok, WHY?

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Olaf Big

    These are harmless jokes! Everybody, try to control knee-jerk political correctness reflex. There is nothing offensive there either for the child or for its adoptive parents. I like the one that the children's lineup looks like a republican party. It does, and Utah is also very, very white. There is nothing wrong with poking a little fun at it.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. BahoPuwet

    Fire Her !!!
    or Fire Them !!!

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. DC Guy

    The Sesame Street song was definitely insensitive. Frankly, I doubt if she would have said it if the baby would have been any other race but black and/or Romney was any other race but white and Republican. I think sometimes some liberal thinkers believe they can criticize African-Americans if the criticism is in a form of a joke and not delivered with a hateful tone....Glad CNN and some other networks called her out on that.

    All that being said, I don't think Mellissa H-P did anything wrong. I believe her coment amount the baby marrying Kanye's kid was more of a playful jab of how polar opposite Romney and Kanye are. Perhaps she should of said something about the other panelist statements, but I did not find her actual comments offensive.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. midas360

    I wish people would recognize where the real problem lies. It's MSNBC exploiting others for gain. It's only when they "slip up" when people see the truth.

    December 31, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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