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. SkippyCanCan

    What this shows you is that it isn't only the goofballs on the right that are ignorant and are trying to be too smart by half. While i don't agree with most of the opinions expressed on Fox, I am more and more disillusioned with what happens on MSNBC which I find to be every bit as biased and twisted as Fox, just the other way. While I'm glad Mitt Romney is not our President, there has never been any reason for anyone to question his bona fides as a solid family man. If this was a large black family with a white or asian baby and similar comments were made, we would be hearing about it for the next few months.

    December 31, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  2. Samantha

    Wow... I agree ... all of this whining coming from a bunch of people who live to crucify Barack Obama EVERY SINGLE DAY? Lol, you people have just got to be kidding. Well, I guess what goes around surely comes back around. I agree that is is a shame for this precious little boy, but it's also a shame for a man who was voted president and sabotaged from day one by these people calling themselves "Republicans".

    December 31, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  3. Big_D

    They should take away their show, just like they did Rush when he said the "nappy headed ho" thing. Oh, they didn't do jack? Nevermind.

    December 31, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. Rita

    Wow – never thought I'd ever agree with anything coming from Palin – never say never!

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. Bob in MA

    Let's ask all these outraged conservatives what they really think of interracial marriage. C'mon, be honest now. Let's hear your true feelings.

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. RealMenSuckOffOldMen

    Happy New Year!

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Karen

    "After Republican blogs and commentators pointed out the panel’s comments, the criticism started pouring in Monday", as usual, there is no actual audience for these pathetic shows on MSNBC, the only reason these POS' poor behavior was challenged is because the watchdogs called 'em on it. LMAO again.

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  8. Ummm....

    Okay just watched the full 1:12 min clip. Fake outrage is an understatement. Poor taste is almost a stretch. They said the baby is georgous. Yes one person made a quip about the representation of the diversity of the Republican party but that more of a zing than anything. I wish people would freak out the next time they call our democratically elected president a Muslim terrorist on Fox but nooo we just let that slide. I am just waiting for a truly outrageous thing to really be said by a lefty so we can watch the right explode from true outrage. Everyone seems to want to be a victim these days it really is unfortunate. We have become a helpless nation of cry baby liars.

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Mark

    Why is this story on your website and better yet why would it be the lead story?

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Name

    Does MSNBC deliberately hire the most boorish, insensitive, mean spirited people they can find, or does it just appear that way?

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Nicole

    No matter how you slice it ... this picture is beautiful, and comments or jokes made about the family – and ESPECIALLY the baby – are disgusting and do nothing to promote peace and love in the world. The Romneys opened their hearts to a child who wasn't their own – how many of those who made/are making jokes about it are willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child by adopting him/her? Stop hating, and start looking to change the world.

    December 31, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Lorri

    No, it is not funny at all. It is much more serious than this because everything these people do is calculated.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. JC

    Wait, those are Romney's grandkids? For a minute, I thought that was a childhood picture of a future BYU football team from back in the old days. Okay, so it IS funny, AND politically incorrect.
    The truth of the matter is that there is a huge need for adoptive parents in this country, but I see a lot of rich, white people making style points by adopting African children. I am concerned that doing this suggests two things: first, that there is a lack of qualified Black households, and second, that an suggesting an African American heritage and experience can be taught by people who are products of a culture that has proven to be just about as racist as can be conceived. Doesn't this smack of "we adopted a black child therefore we are good people?" The adoption, this picture, and the "politically correct" issue has style points written all over it. I feel sorry for that child – especially if he ends up playing for BYU.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. W Toler

    to all the FOX comments, I guess you are right. Especially when you consider how NBC and MSNBC will edit and even make up what they want to hear on FOX to make their point. SAD way to make your point- when you have video to contradict what was exploited.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. BD70

    One of these things isn't like the other. As the child grows and realizes the difference then the parents have some explaining to do. Not like they can hide this adoption. That said...mostly because people love to make something out of nothing....I commend the Romney's for adopting and giving this child a better life than most others will have.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. MontanaTrace

    Any child adopted by the Romney's will fair well. One very fortunate child. He will be loved, safe, educated and pass that on. Rather than speak bigotry as a media reporter, why not learn and tell the story. I bet it is heart warming and teaching. But no, let's play politics with hate as a tool. Shameful. Both sides have done this. We need to get rid of career politicians and their minions. Term limits. Media.......... how about reporting the news, instead of creating it.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. optimistmiser

    Perry should be fired.

    December 31, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Jerry

    Where is the Right crying about free speech over this?

    December 31, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. Malory Archer

    The feigned outrage from the right is pathetic at best. In addition to the whole a.m. radio dial, there is an ENTIRE news organization dedicated to doing nothing but denigrating President Obama and his family, and anyone else with whom they have an ideological difference of opinion, and they say far worse things 24/7, and when the "liberals" protest, we're told to "get over it". When a "liberal" says ANYTHING they DEMAND the offender be fired, and the network usually acquiesces. Why the double standard?

    December 31, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  20. Name Spunky

    She should be fired immediately!

    December 31, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Bill

    Can you imagine the uproar if it was someone from Fox News and if Romney was a Democrat?

    December 31, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. optimistmiser

    According to MSNBC if a Democrat adopts a black child it is progressive, but if a Republican adopts a black child it is regressive. Nothing MSNBC does is worthy of listening too.

    December 31, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. drc

    Well, we all know if roles were reversed Al Sharpton the king of all 'rac-ists' would be up in arms ranting about it on MSNBC. Then again without the r-word, Al would have no job.

    December 31, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Big_D

    If you think what they said was awkward you should have heard the baby's grandmother at Christmas.

    December 31, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. roccosphere

    Lack of diversity at the RNC? You mean like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Artur Davis (R-AL), Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), former RNC Chair Michael Steele, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) to name a few. The Democrat convention was lily white compared to the GOP convention. #justsayin

    December 31, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
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