MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry made a tearful apology to Mitt Romney’s family on her show Saturday, after she and a panel poked fun at a photo of the former Republican presidential candidate with his wife and 21 grandchildren by zeroing in on his adopted African-American grandson.
“Whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive, and showing the photo in that context, of that segment, was poor judgment. So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family,” said the anchor at the open of her show, “Melissa Harris-Perry.”
Harris-Perry became emotional as she went on to apologize to all “other families formed through transracial adoption,” saying, “I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule.”
She highlighted her own interracial background, as the daughter of an African-American man and a white Mormon woman. But, she said, families are always “off limits,” and the Romneys’ grandchildren should never have been a topic of discussion.
“Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly. My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off limits, and for that I am sorry,” she said.
Harris-Perry first apologized on Twitter and MSNBC’s website Tuesday, offering a similar mea culpa “without reservation or qualification.”
During the segment last Sunday, Harris-Perry asked a panel to come up with a caption for the Romney family photo, and two panelists made jokes about the infant standing out.
Actress Pia Glenn began singing lines from the song popularized by Sesame Street, “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.” 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 CNN.com.
Harris-Perry described the baby as “gorgeous” and joked that in 2040 he would marry North West, the daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
“Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she said, to laughs.
Criticism was swift across social media, with prominent Republicans from Sarah Palin to former Sen. Scott Brown weighing in.
A spokeswoman for Romney told CNN he was on a family vacation this week and unavailable for comment. On Sunday, Romney will appear on “Fox News Sunday,” where he is likely to be asked about the episode.
MSNBC has been in some hot water recently after a handful of their hosts have made controversial comments. Alec Baldwin and the network parted ways in November after his homophobic outburst against photographers, and Martin Bashir resigned in December for his suggestion that Sarah Palin deserved graphic punishment for comparing U.S. foreign debt to slavery.
CNN’s Ashley Killough contributed to this report.