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. Squealy

    Oh, c'mon CaptainObvious. You make it sound like this is the worst thing that ever happened, anywhere, ever. And it is hardly that. That being said, it was a stupid insensitive comment by a network that should and does know better. I'll say this for Harris-Perry. She apologized straight up. None of this pseudo-apology stuff you get frompoliticians which is usually along the lines of "I apologize IF my perfectly reasonable comment happened to insult your overly-sensitive nature": No, she just said, I apologize FOR saying this insensitive thing. Not IF, FOR. And for that reason, I'll give her a second chance.

    December 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Dale

    Fire them all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. Quiana

    I'm tired of the hypocrisy, both parties make mistakes and say stupid things. It's called freedom of speech. The network apologized, move on. In all honestly, the truth hurts. I’m more concerned with the racism in abortion where a white person could easily adopt a black child, but not the other way around.

    December 31, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. bluedolphin53

    Fox is in right field no doubt, but MSNBC is not even in tha ball park. Honestly, I watch MSNBC just for laughs.

    December 31, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  5. The Mullet

    I could care less for Romney"s politics but as a black man I am glad they adopted this boy. He has a chance of living a life filled with love instead of violence and fear.

    December 31, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. Paul

    It sounds to me like the comments were all really pretty funny and typical of what one might hear on the SNL news update or Jon Stewart. I didn't read anything mean spirited. What's the big deal?

    December 31, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. Kenneth Arnold

    Politcs and partisanism. Race and ratings. Race will ALWAYS be a dividing factor in the United States and its not going to get any better. Am I pessimist? About race, yes I am. Democrats and Republicans-two VERY,VERY different views of the future of this nation. Im just sitting back and observing the spectacle that is being played out here to see what the end game will be. Sure, the photo of the adopted child is showing inclusion,compassion or could it be a political ploy?

    December 31, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    I think that naming the child "Kieran" is a cruel jest. Why? The name means "black", or "the black one" in this context.

    December 31, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. Siobhan Miller

    Really – not one, not two, but three people were stupid enough to chime in on the picture during this segment? What quality journalism. My black husband and 2
    white kids from my previous marriage draw looks and remarks from idiots like this everywhere they go.
    That is a beautiful baby with a beautiful family, time for these morons to move into this century, please.

    December 31, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Frank

    I wonder if the little black child will grow up to be a democrat.

    December 31, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. karen

    This has nothing to do with politics, it's a human issue and what they said was very stupid. My family is mixed through adoption, my significant other's family is mixed by marriage. Neither of us see it as anything out of the ordinary. Comments like these are just ignorant and show that, as a society, we have a long way to go.

    December 31, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. Barbara Loving

    Freedom of speech is ok for the Duck master but not on msnbc??? CNN is becoming FOX. Where is the story about Romney going to court for fraud and a bribe to doctor the books according to an associate at Bain???

    December 31, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. John

    Everyone needs to take a deep breath. GOP party gets about 5% of the black vote. They do have a race problem that is not going away. The GOP trying to make political hay out of this incident but it will not work.

    December 31, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. C Blake

    MSNBC is a joke! They make me sick!

    December 31, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. Tim DeZolt

    Where's Waldo?

    December 31, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. anonymous

    that's one cute kid

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. skipper

    typical mediocre junior journalists when they easily say and do things later deny they don't mean it. There are men and boys in this profession. Either they'll learn to perfect their skills or look for something else to do. Don't use media as mean to serve their own opinions and don't try to be cute either.

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. Bardamu

    Much ado about nothing. Politics in this country have degraded to the level of 3rd grade temper tantrums and hissy fits. Hypocritical republicans gets to wallow in self-righteous indignation for a few days then at some future point the whiny, teary eyed liberals will get their turn to be morally offended by some perceived slight. All the while politicians accomplish getting nothing accomplished and are paid handsomely for it. The only winner is mediocrity and all Americans lose.

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. pourmonamiJC

    MSNBC is after ratings and it works.

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. Hmm . . .

    Again proving that MCNBC is the station of/for total lidiots.

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. thompsrc

    What I find most troubling is two things, first MSNBC is obviously not a news station, it's a politics and opinion station very distinctly speaking from the extreme left. Secondly, it is the most blatantly racist thing I have seen in a long, long time. What disrespect to the Romney family, the parents, and the child! I believe that Romney was an honorable, honest, man with good intentions, and a good heart, who deserves none of the mocking disrespect he has received. To do that to his family is inexcusable.

    December 31, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. Robert

    MSNBC is nothing but a drooling liberal propaganda network. Is anyone surprised? They continue their plunge to the ratings basement.

    December 31, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Name lhall

    she made a mistake she apologized now move on if you want to talk about something talk about the duck dynasty!

    December 31, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Palin then turned to an aid and was heard to say "Look into getting one of those colored babies for me too!"

    December 31, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Ben

    Another group of liberals reveal themselves as hypocrites. It's not news to anyone who has been paying attention, but most of the sheep will still follow these hateful people who trash everyone who thinks or acts different from them.

    December 31, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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