Mitt Romney says it’s time to move on from the controversy involving MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and his adopted grandson.
I say it’s time to turn off MSNBC. Its angry talkers take personal attacks to a new and uglier level. They offend, we recoil. Alec Baldwin was fired and Martin Bashir resigned for making crude comments while hosting shows at the network. And even when Harris-Perry tried to save her job with an apology to the Romney family, she wasn’t upfront about everything she did
Liberals are a bundle of contradictions. They say we shouldn’t take race into account, then they create racial preferences that do just that. They insist that immigrant children should learn English, then launch bilingual education classes that make this more difficult. They insist that giving poor and minority children a quality education is a civil right, then they side with teachers unions that undermine reforms intended to improve our schools. They preach tolerance, then they react intolerantly to the opinions of a duck hunter from Louisiana.
Now, after saying for decades how Republicans need to be kind and compassionate to African-Americans, they ridicule a family of Republicans for doing something kind and compassionate: adopting an African-American baby.
The family is the Romneys. And the baby is Kieran James Romney, who last fall was adopted by Mitt Romney’s son Ben and his wife Andelyne. The little guy appeared in the family Christmas photo, sitting on the knee of the 2012 Republican standard-bearer.
Recently, in a lame year-end segment on her show dubbed “Look Back in Laughter,” Harris-Perry and a couple of her guests – actress/comedian Pia Glenn, and comedian Dean Obeidallah – decided to make fun of that image.
Glenn burst into a song popularized by Sesame Street: “One of these things is not like the others! One of these things just isn’t the same. And that little baby, front and center, would be the one.”
Goodness, what would Big Bird say?
Harris-Perry joked that Kieran James should grow up to marry North West, the daughter of reality star Kim Kardashian and rapper Kanye West. She quipped, “Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?”
Can you imagine MSNBC putting on the air a show that is actually worth watching? Me neither. I’m not alone. Several media critics have responded to this controversy by suggesting that the problem extends to the whole network.
It gets worse. Obeidallah said this about the photo: “I think this picture is great. It really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”
That’s bold talk. None of the television networks are particularly good at showcasing people of color.
Everyone apologized, sort of. Glenn said that her disgust with Romney’s politics had impaired her judgment, and Obeidallah essentially said he was victim of a right-wing campaign to silence him.
Only Harris-Perry offered a halfway decent mea culpa – both on Twitter the day after the incident, and on the next installment of her show. Ironically, the host is herself the product of an interracial marriage, and her mother – like the Romneys – was raised as a Mormon.
“Given my own family history, I’d identified with that picture and I intended to say positive and celebratory things about it,” she said with tears in her eyes. “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 . . . was poor judgment. So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Romney said that “people make mistakes.”
But it turns out that Harris-Perry was no innocent bystander who got caught up in the wreckage. She was the instigator. According to a report on CNN.com, just moments before the controversial segment, Harris-Perry went to commercial egging on her guests and urging them to yuk it up.
“My comedians are all going to be forced to drink during the commercial so they can get their funny back,” she said on the air.
You see, this doomed segment didn’t just “proceed” aimlessly into the ditch. It was driven there by the host.
And why was this? Harris-Perry may have provided the answer. As she went to break, she added, “We are basically ratings whores.”
I wouldn’t argue with that.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.