MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry Apologizes To Romney on Air, Breaks Down

Following a week of heavy backlash on news shows and social media, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry opened her Saturday morning show with a tearful apology for last Sunday’s segment, which had used a photo of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his grandchildren — one of whom is black — as a misguided setup for jokes about the GOP. Although Harris-Perry immediately apologised via Twitter, the situation quickly escalated, with Romney himself expected to tackle the controversy on Fox News Sunday this weekend.

On Saturday morning, Harris-Perry again offered an apology to the Romney family, this time on air. She said:

"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, 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. For that I am sorry."

During the Dec. 29 show, Harris-Perry presented guests with a picture of Mitt Romney and his grandchildren, and asked them to come up with a funny caption for it. One commenter joked that the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party. At the convention, they find the one black person.” Another panelist sang, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same..."

As Bustle previously pointed out, none of the jokes were, in and of themselves, particularly racist, but the setup relied on the premise that a multiracial family is somehow freakish or deserving of mockery. For Harris-Perry, who is herself a black woman in a white family, this point was clearly particularly painful — her voice cracked as she said the following during her Saturday morning apology:

“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 do so, it must be with the utmost respect. We’re genuinely 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.”

If only other celebrities (cough, Ani Difranco, cough) could be as classy.

The controversy also started a whole twitter campaign, with people voicing support for Harris-Perry and condemning the fierce backlash against her: