Proving that Fox News isn't the only network that can turn inane holiday banter into a racial controversy, MSNBC is under fire for joking about Kieran Romney, the African-American boy recently adopted by Mitt Romney's son Ben. While recapping the year's most talked about photos with a panel of comedians on Sunday, Melissa Harris-Perry showed the Romneys' annual Christmas photo, featuring Mitt and Ann surrounded by nearly two dozen grandkids in matching outfits. Actress Pia Glenn sang, "one of these things is not like the others," and comedian Dean Obeidallah quipped, "It really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person." Harris-Perry also called Kieran "gorgeous," but unsurprisingly the remarks still didn't go over well with conservatives.
"He’s just a token. A punchline, not a person. But it’s funny, because Republicans are racist, see? So it’s all fine!" Caleb Howe of The Right Scoop wrote on Monday. On Twitter, former Romney adviser Stuart Stevens said, "MSNBC has become a club where the smug go to exchange hateful opinions and reassure each other it's acceptable," and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown called on MSNBC to apologize for "this wildly inappropriate incident."
At first, Glenn defended her remarks, saying she wasn't "mocking or attacking the baby," but she apologized in subsequent tweets:
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.— Pia Glenn (@PiaGlenn) December 30, 2013
Obeidallah told CNN:
"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 ... 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."