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. CoffeeCritter

    The Romney's did NOTHING wrong here. Those pink and blue-checkered shirts and neatly pressed khakis...nothing obsessive oranal about that....

    December 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. mr-rob

    As an ex-member of the church I witnessed the bigotry of the church first hand. Seriously, people of color could not hold "the priesthood" until 1978. Though the comments made were inappropriate and in BAD taste it does not excuse the Romneys exploitation of their adopted baby under the guise of their "views' on equality. The Mormons, in general, are prolific breeders and represent a population model that would leave the world devoid of resources and over crowded in a matter of decades. I have also witnessed countless power struggles by mormon individuals who use their fundamentalism to justify their actions. God forbid we see the day when fundamentalism is allowed to rule the moderates.

    December 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. chuck

    That network is run by children.

    December 31, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. Embers

    Who doesn't love free comedy.

    December 31, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Tracey

    The jokes and comments were in poor taste,but let's not pretend as if she's the only news personality who's shown poor taste and judgment. MSNBC, CNN, and let's not dare forget FOX.

    December 31, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. skot

    Honestly as a black man- not african american since I am not from africa, I'm incline to see this as a publicity stunt by politicians to win over the minorities heart. However, i can not deny the fact that white or not, this is a noble act by Romney and definitely switches my opinion of him- election have past so maybe this was from the heart not politics.

    Now touching on the new cast horrible idea of a practical joke, they shouldve known better to mock a man for what ever color his "kids" are. Honestly, Iwas more disturb more then anything by the sesame song. Why dont you just whistle dixie while you at it. Because to look at a family portrait and say/mock about one kid not fiting in is just horrible. You think that little girl is not going to know that when she gets older that the Romneys arent her real family, dont you think that little is going to understand when she gets older that she different everyone around the dinner table? So why on a national level would somebody joke about that...

    Ill never watch this network again, as long as I live, and make sure none of my kids does either.

    December 31, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. S Murphy

    Time to pack your reverse discrimination bags and head off to where ever Jimmy the Greek, Paula Dean, George Zimmerman, Phil Robertson, and other bigots live. You are going to try to pass it off and let the winds of hatred subside, but you wouldn't give any of these other people a break if they said lesser remarks. What good for the goose...MSNBC (My Selective News Broadcasting Company)!

    December 31, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  8. ex-sarge


    not the first time MHP has been insensitive to white people, she needs diversity training and I feel that she has been given enough breaks in the past for her bitterly divisive remarks. Its time that MSNBC pulls the plug on her show. I for one have lost all faith and confidence in her ability to provide objective journalism. When I see her face on the screen I switch the channel.

    Really???? I don't think you have seen her show, if you have I doubt you made it all the way through once. I am inclined to watch her show and the one preceding it (Steve Kornacki) if I am up. the conversations make me think and sometimes disagree out loud with my tv.

    December 31, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  9. bob j

    Children (and grandchildren) of politicians should be off limits by both parties during their formative years unless they have broken the law or have immersed themselves in the political debate.

    December 31, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Eric

    Does this really surprise anybody? If you have ever watched MHP you would know she thinks she is some kind of comedian who when she speaks has everyone one the edge of their seat waiting for her opinion. Leave the comedy to Tosh. She is no different than any of the thousand of left wing professors we all had in college. She is jus waaaay more arrogant and asinine.

    December 31, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Reality Check

    Those comments are vile and racist and what we have come to expect from msnbc and the left in general. Just compare .. Sarah Palin has a special needs child, the Romany's adopt a minority child and the McCain's adopted a foreign child and each is constantly ridiculed and called racist. Now look at Bill Maher, what has he done other than mock each of them and give $1m to Obama. Not one friggin humanitarian act and he is admired as an enlightened Hollywood progressive; its actually quite funny. And they all seem to be clueless as to what jerks they are until they get caught and then we get half hearted apology's like we care. But they should all take note .. first Bashir, then duck dynasty and now Melissa. The Silent Majority is rising up against the tyranny of the left and in 2014 Congress will realize the change as well. This what the politics of division brings.

    December 31, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. Tim

    MSNBC, if you are really serious about this kind of tasteless behavior, how about removing Ms. Melissa Harris-Perry-Clueless and other hate-filled and racist Liberals from the air?

    December 31, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. antiMSNBC

    Classic comment by TerryinFlorida. I guess he/she is anti interracial adoption and finds no redeeming social value in giving some child whether blue, green, black, white or purple a loving, giving home. And I thought I was a cynic.

    December 31, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Conservative398

    The entire show was one racist comment after another, they even had "race cards" drawn up so when one of them wanted to say something racist they were free to do so.

    The left only believes in one thing when it comes to racism....only white people can be racist, and only black people can be victims of racism. It is a sad state that the left has become the home of racism and at the same time convinced a majority of the nation that they and only they can say what is and what is not racist.

    December 31, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Dave

    Obviously nothing more then a publicity stunt. Is Romney thinking hell run in 2016 and this will maybe help get him some of the 47%ers, namely the black vote. politicians, what a joke.

    December 31, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. chuck

    Terry in Flordia: you're gross. No one knew about the adoption until now. You have MHP to thank for that.

    December 31, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. cks

    Ms. Harris-Perry and her guests have the right to make their comments. However, just because one has a right to say something is not the same as having the good judgment not to express a particular view. What did that little baby ever do to the three MSNBC people that they felt they had to make such comments? Whether one agrees with the politics of the Romney family or not, there is a certain decorum or rules of civility that used to apply – little children (or grandchildren) of politicians should not be fodder for comedians, commentators, etc. Children have no say in the actions of their parents/grandparents. There was great outrage (as there should have been) when Limbaugh made comments about a young Chelsea Clinton. I do think that the media (both conservative and liberal) have left the Obama children alone (again, as they should be left alone).
    Why the need to make fun of the Romney Christmas card? Romney has said that he will not run again. While he may still be considered by some as a major player in the GOP (obviously there are those at MSNBC that hold that view), many consider him no more important than any of the others who have run for the highest office and lost. It would seem that there are some at MSNBC who feel the necessity to bash any Romney because he will turn the other cheek (unlike Palin) and refuse to rise to the bait.

    December 31, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. sean

    I don't understand why she is not being fired? If she was a white there would be no question as the black leaders would commune together and force her out. But since she is not white its ok. What a double standard. I would think she would be more thankful and understanding as she grew up in the same type of environment, (being adopted by Mormons). I guess she regrets how she was taken care of. Probably would be better off if she was raised by someone else. I guess she really showed her true COLORS.

    How disappointing

    December 31, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Liz

    @JohnB – Do you even realize that Perry is half white? What an illogical post on your behalf..

    December 31, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  20. American

    I think it's pretty obvious Romney adopted this kid for political reasons. It's not off limits.

    December 31, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. Linda

    My husband and I are the adoptive parents of two Asian children. My in-laws are practicing Mormons and we lived in Utah for 13 years. It is no secret that, until the late 20th century, African-Americans were not allowed to hold the priesthood in the Mormon Church because they were considered to be sons of Ham, their black skin being the "curse" placed upon them by God. The fact that the Romneys' family photo was placed out there for anyone to see and comment on speaks volumes about the Romneys themselves. By making their photo public, they have invited public comment – some bad, some good – from every conceivable side, and many have weighed in and chosen to make political hay with their comments. As an adoptive parent of Asian children, I take no offense at these comments – they were not aimed at the child (who, by the way, is darling) – but rather at the family who chose to go "public" with their family photo and thereby openly invite public comment. I see absolutely no need for apologies or offense taken on either side. Focus on what's important and be glad for the child – who got a family to love and care for him!

    December 31, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. Trudeau

    People who regularly make inappropriate comments bashing MSNBC for same? Does anyone even notice the hypocrites on parade anymore?

    December 31, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. JAY

    The fact that terry in Florida thinks that way is one sad and two ignorant. The kid is going to grow up and have a good life, I blame your parents for you're spelling and thoughts.

    December 31, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. david beach

    Hey, at least Perry aplogized. Duck guy just doubled down on his hate-filled racist nonsense and you conservatives worship him. Hating for the sake of hating is out of control!

    December 31, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Shocking.......

    Terry in Florida

    So your saying that Democrats don't try to use their racial diversity as a publicity stunt? Is that why we see equal numbers of whites, Hispanics, blacks, Asians at political conventions even though the numbers aren't like that in real life?

    Since when did MSNBC go so low as to attack children now on the basis of their race? If President Obama's daughters were later to adopt a white child, do you think the Republicans would make fun of it? Admit that these comments are out of line!

    December 31, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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