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Melissa-Harris Perry Cries During On-Air Apology to Romney Family

Noel Sheppard's picture

As NewsBusters previously reported, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and a panel of comedians last weekend senselessly mocked a picture of former Governor Mitt Romney’s family because it included his adopted black grandson.

Although she’s already apologized on Twitter, Harris-Perry began her show Saturday with a heartfelt apology much of the time fighting through a lump in her throat and tears (video follows with transcript and commentary):

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. We have a lot of news and politics to discuss this morning. Before we get to that, I'm going to start with an apology.

Last Sunday, we invited a panel of comedians for a year in review program. It's what we call our look back in laughter. But in one of the segments, we looked at a number of photos that caught our attention over the course of the year. In that segment, I asked my guests to provide kind of off the cuff ideas for captions of the photos that we were seeing. Among the images we aired was one of the Romney family that showed Governor Mitt Romney's grandchildren, including his adopted grandson, who's African-American.

Now given my own family history, I identify with that picture and I intended to say positive and celebratory things about it, but whatever the intent was, the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive. And showing the photo in that context, that segment, was poor judgment.

So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. 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.

Also, allow me to apologize to other families formed through transracial adoption, because I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule. On this program we are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families. It is one of our core principles, and I am reminded that when we are doing so, it must always be with the utmost respect.

We're generally appreciative of everyone who offered serious criticisms of last Sunday's program, and I am reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes be our best teachers.


As apologies go, I'm not sure anyone can do a better job. Harris-Perry is to be commended.

However, as this is the third high-profile misstep by an MSNBC host in less than two months, it is time for Comcast and NBC to take a serious look at what's happening at this farce of a so-called "cable news network."

As Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz asked Friday, "[H]as the channel developed a culture in which harsh personal attacks are encouraged, or at least tolerated?"

As the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes," it behooves the powers that be at this network to examine exactly what is the culture there that would encourage a child of an interracial family to mock an interracial family all because its patriarch is a Republican.

Without such an examination, it seems a metaphysical certitude that more MSNBC hosts are going to commit vile on-air transgressions this year.

Maybe it's high time Comcast and NBC put a stop to it.

*****Update: Alec Baldwin mocks via Twitter, "'If I Cry, Will I Be Forgiven All of My Transgressions?"