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. Robjh1

    The fact that Harris-Perry's panelist felt it safe an ok to join in and aid the comments is deplorable!

    December 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Mike

    Where is Jackson and Sharpton now? I guess it is alright to make raciest or bigoted comments if your from the left media?

    December 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Liberalsarelosers

    Wow, if this had been the other way around, the liberals on here saying that nothing wrong was done, that the Romneys did for political gain, etc would be howling like a bunch of two year olds.
    What a bunch of liberal losers. Romney has more class than any of you could dream about.

    December 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Dempsy

    I watched this thing 3 times and I cannot for the life of me figure out what the angst is all about? I am amazed at the reaction.

    December 31, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. jangocat

    If Melissa Harris-Perry was white she would already be fired.

    December 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. Sarah

    Not all of the comments were offending but any one who focuses on the baby to make negative jokes should know better. Imagine if the child had been Jewish, would it still be "funny".
    Can we please move into the 21st Century and stop commenting on color, race or religion?

    December 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. badnews333

    Why does this not surprise me. The question I'm asking is where is Jesse Jackson and the rest. This has racial tones to it.

    December 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Harris-Perry has to be a racist because only racists would see something like that . Besides we all know that MSNBC is a liberal rag that will stir controversy just to further its liberal agenda.

    December 31, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. Jules

    First of all STOP blaming Liberals every time some fool makes an ass of their self. You can't hold an entire group responsible for the idiotic remarks of one or two. Think "Phil Robertson". Does he represent the views of every Conservative? Is Phil Robertson the poster boy for the Republican Party?

    On the positive side it's a beautiful picture. I didn't even notice the baby's 'skin' color. Which kinda make me feel good.

    December 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  10. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    The Mormon Church has always followed a doctrine, teaching or practice that African-American or black people could not marry white or Caucasian people, or serve in higher church offices such as the "Lay Priesthood."

    This stemmed from a belief that they were descendants of Cain, and/or were cursed or unclean.

    The Mormon Church ostensibly abandoned these beliefs and practices in about1978.

    However, even now, almost no lifelong Mormons are black.

    I infer that the irony in Governor Romney's family composition, set against his Mormon background, prompted the announcers' comments.

    That is the obvious source of their attempts at humour.

    I believe the Mormon Church's fundamental, long-standing, unrepentant racial discrimination against African-Americans is absolutely wrong. It is an abhorrent Spiritual error.

    It is an awful practice which deserves to be contemptuously mocked and derided by comedic irony such as was attempted by the announcers.

    However, their comments were ill-placed, ill-timed and not in good taste.

    They did not even bother to introduce their comments with mention of the embarrassing Mormon Anti-Black Doctrine which they obviously intended to ridicule.

    I thought I would type this letter to contribute to a proper perspective for this discussion.

    I wish you all a Blessed New Year!

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    December 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. jose

    Why now that the Romney find themselves in the need of adopting a minority child? After what has been said and done, you Kinda have to ask the question. If he had of presented his family in this manner, he would of have been the President today. This is a PR and nothing else. He will not out live the 47% comment and Mrs.R will never out live the "you people" comment either.

    December 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. apple records

    VERY strange group photo above. If it weren't for the money, I'd feel deeply sorry for each and every one of those kids..equally.

    December 31, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. jimi.

    The Mormon religion has a rich history of bigotry towards black people. I'm sorry, but the comments were deserved because these people never change. I feel sorry for that poor little boy growing up with a group of ingrates like the Romneys.

    December 31, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  14. Mike

    Perry's comment was actually the only one that was not racist and was a little bit funny. The other hosts' comments were horrible.

    December 31, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Chris

    Slow news day?

    December 31, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. Mike

    I've been reading Obeidallah's columns on for quite a while, and had no earthly idea he considered himself a "comedian".

    His columns are typically about as funny as malignant tumors.

    December 31, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. MW

    How is this even a story, CNN? Oh, one wayward intern was left behind to man the site for the holiday.

    Hire some journalists!

    December 31, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  18. Sam

    MSNBC Racists and Bigots all.

    December 31, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. Freedom Ain't Free

    Expect the black child to be used as a prop as his sons run for office in the near future.

    December 31, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Woof

    MSNBC is like that table in the high school cafeteria full of the "popular" kids who think they are better than you and and feel powerful making fun of and ragging on people that they do not like.
    They were D bags then and they are certainly D bags now

    December 31, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. sheri

    it was a childish and stupid .

    December 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. lamry

    I'd be more outraged if it weren't for the pos racists in the conservative wing who are using this as a "See! When my guys are racist we should get a free pass!". They are the same type of buffoons that think "Free speech" means they shouldn't get any flak for saying ignorant things. (see Phil Robertson)

    December 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. liberal disease

    the only time MSNBC gets any attention is when they say something racist, which is about once a week

    December 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  24. John Tonra

    The most disturbing part is that out of all the possible news stories to discuss, MHP brought up this photo. So obsessed is she with talking down white republicans, that she decided a photo of them with their grandchildren was deserving of derision and should be mocked. Another liberal that things their farts don't smell (South Park reference!!!)

    December 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. ANNIER

    Why is this cult member even in the news? It's almost laughable, the attempts to make the family "hip", at the expense of an innocent child. mr is a big shot in his "church" yet it's not that many years since I lived in SLC, when blacks were unacceptable to their "church", tabernacle choir, or boy scouts. They have been carried kicking and screaming into the 21st century, and would maintain their socials views, if not for the desperation to attain the ultimate political power.

    December 31, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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