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. Captain_Q

    MHP's own profile page on MSNBC states... Expert in: Race.

    December 31, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. no clue

    if its good for the duck dynasty to do it, why is this any different?

    December 31, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. ga

    I will never watch them again. I think this is terrible, and an apology now is to late.

    December 31, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. vern

    petty people make a big deal over harmless jokes, casue more trouble in the world than the lighthearted ones forced to get all serious.

    December 31, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. DustyOnes

    MSNBC should lose its license

    December 31, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  6. Annabelle

    MSMBC has stooped to a major new low. Not that I was surprised by their behavior. Even Bill. Maher looks less atrocious next to this poor excuse for a 'panel'. I've have my share of ethnic friends and this is one in which my black friends are extremely offended. There have been many portraits over the years with the Romney family. Many families have their pictures taken every year. This isn't a publicity stunt -but a high class family that loves each other more than you pathetic creatures who eat your young would ever understand. This speaks volumes about how one group of people act year round and the other group of people salivating and just ready for blood. As you can see, if your looking at political numbers, your ship is sinking. Just a smelly barge of ugliness that is better off at the bottom of the ocean. You just love chewing on that old bone of yours and as you eat that bone grows shorter you'll soon see you've been chewing on you own leg. So thankful to hear so many people coming out in support of the Romney's and distancing themselves away from the garbage that eventually reveals itself by the stench of that puke and vomit that emits itself from vile evil smell. Shame on you!

    December 31, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Name john

    Its amazing to me that a simple apology is good enough when liberal democrats make "jokes" that are malicious insults towards republicans, but if the situation were reversed there would be a relentless movement to fire the offenders and publicly destroy them! Where are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in this case???

    December 31, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  8. Guest

    Kudos to them for adopting. But why name the kid "Black" (the meaning of the Irish name Kieran)

    December 31, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. suzy hager

    Well, I am Democrat. I absolutely think Mitt is evil. BUT, the "son" that adopted that black baby is Ben. Ben is a Doctor in California. He was usually absent from the politic stuff. He was home taking care of his patients. If any other son had adopted the baby I'd of thought "pr"......but Ben is a Doctor whose life is dedicated to helping people. I think it's great he welcomed any color of human into his wonderful existence. That baby will be quite happy. Gad, I HATE having to say something positive about this family.

    December 31, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. john

    I never have seen a TV network and it's staff more infested with racists like MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. dem

    Let's see now...MHP's guests make mildly sarcastic remarks about infant Kiernan and the right goes ballistic – and demands apologies...while they refuse to apologize when the elder Mr. Robertson condemns gays to hell while equating them to terrorists and attempting to revise history by lying about the Civil Rights struggle?!
    How do you retro-conservatives sleep?
    And,what the hell has happened to CNN – the newly-minted FOX light network?

    December 31, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. David

    It's okay MHP... You'll be forgiven by the media.. Liberals always do. If a conservative does that, the media would be crying "TAKE HIM OFF THE AIR!!"

    December 31, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  13. KHK

    Wow! Where's Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Probably trying to figure out how they can spin this so they don't have to defend a republican.

    December 31, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. RT Colorado

    I guess it's okay to say anything you long as you apologize for it via twitter. There's the standard feel free to say anything you want, anything at it about Gays, Women, Minorities, People with Disabilities, Religious Minorities...Hell even Polish jokes are okay...just remember to apologize afterwards. This begs the question...can one apologize in advance for something they know they are going to say...or even think they might say? And then there's "I'll say something really nasty about your Mom now...and I owe you an apology later?" Or maybe there could be an extension of "Oh, I'm sorry...for the nasty stuff I'm about to say or do" then go ahead and do it? The "Pre-Apology" or the "Pre-emptive I can do anything I want because I'm going to apologize later" syndrome. I can see it now..."Your client is innocent of that hate crime...he meant to apologize but he was arrested before he could get around to it". Oh yeah...ethics is so cool.

    December 31, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. Captain_Q

    Can't hide behind one's race this time for special treatment. Don Imus was FIRED for picking on black teenagers, even after apologizing to the entire group IN PERSON.

    December 31, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. norma jean

    I believe Mellisa Harris Perry is of the same heritage as the grandbaby which might have something to do with her opinion.!!

    December 31, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. SC_tellin' it like it is

    To the folks that made their "funny" jokes about the little baby: why are you apologizing? Clearly you meant to poke fun or you wouldn't have done it to begin with. I think it is a beautiful thing that they adopted that little baby. The fact that Americans still flinch when they see an integrated family shows your true character. The Romney's were sharing their joy and your shenanigans turned it into a joke.

    December 31, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Craig

    Heroes. That's what CNN would have called a middle class family that did the same thing. The bias against the successful in this country is pathetic bigotry, and revealing of the loser mentality fostered by so many. Is it tougher now than 10 years ago? Perhaps. Tougher than 50 years ago? Not a chance. The left has no solutions for the poor or the middle class other than to rail at the rich and call people that disagree with the left foul names like racist and hater. So this is how they fill programming over at MSNBC.

    December 31, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. John G.

    It is incredible how sensitive many eople are; so easy to take offense. Political correctness has created an atmosphere where if you step out of the PC required group-think, the morality police are going to try to destroy you. It is a shame and totally out of control.

    December 31, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Rich

    I hope Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal defend Melissa Harris-Perry's right to freedom of speech.

    December 31, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. ChicagoJim

    I realize that a jab at the Romneys because they have adopted a child of a race different from theirs was inappropriate. It is no lost on me; however, that there is a certain humor to the jab at the Republican Party when its makeup was compared to the Romney family's makeup. Now the Republicans (modern, not those great ones of the 1850's), who are not known for embracing races other than whites, are all up in arms. Oh, the irony!

    December 31, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. 1CDO_RLI

    Harris-Perry is so angry at the world, that she actually believes that it up to a new born babies parents to decide if a the new born should be kept alive. That's right, to her parents should have the right to snuff out that babies life after it is born.
    Why would anyone be surprised at anything she says or writes. She is inhuman

    December 31, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. Cabin Cowboy

    The so called apology from Melissa Harris-Perry more or less says that if you didn’t understand her "humorous" statements it must because you are a stupid racist who cannot see that there is only one black person in the picture, you can't see the humor because you are an intolerant bigot.

    December 31, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  24. hood3311

    Regardless of anything MSNBC has done in the past, this was nothing but a simple joke. This wasn't fueled by racism or even wanting to bash Romney.... The woman put a humorous spin on explaining the obvious that was unusual about the picture that was presented before her, and nothing more. It is not her fault that some people purposely chose to take that out of context... Some people just want a reason to throw the first stone and they are constantly on the lookout for imperfections to tear apart and judge, completely unsympathetic to the fact that we don't live in a perfect world.

    December 31, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  25. hood3311

    Regardless of anything MSNBC has done in the past, this was nothing but a simple joke. This wasn't fueled by racism or even wanting to bash Romney.... The woman put a humorous spin on explaining the obvious that was unusual about the picture that was presented before her, and nothing more. It is not her fault that some people purposely chose to take that out of context... Some people just want a reason to throw the first stone and they are constantly on the lookout for imperfections to tear apart and judge, completely unsympathetic to the fact that we don't live in a perfect world.

    December 31, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106