The MHP-Romney Saga Grew a 2nd Head on Social Media

Melissa Harris-Perry
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MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry tearfully apologized Saturday for poking fun at a Mitt Romney family photo that included his adopted African-American grandson, but the apology failed to end a discussion that initially seemed mired in political posturing. 

Politics, Race, Mormonism and Babies a Volatile Mix

"Several days later the controversy seems only to have grown larger as competitors like CNN and the Fox News Channel have weighed in multiple times and Twitter and other social media continue to spread news of the MSNBC segment," Paul Bond wrote Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter.


On Sunday, "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace was unsatisfied when the 2012 GOP presidential candidate said, "I recognize that people make mistakes, and the folks at MSNBC made a big mistake. They've apologized for it, and that's all you can ask for. I'm going to move on from that, I'm sure they want to move on from it. I've made plenty of mistakes myself, and they've apologized for this, and we can go on from there."

Surely, Wallace seemed to say as he pressed for more, you can say something more explosive. But Romney remained conciliatory.


Media critic Howard Kurtz, writing for Fox News on Friday, likened Harris-Perry's remarks to other spoken missteps at MSNBC involving Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir. "If there is a theme to these episodes, it is a view of Republicans and conservatives as so mean-spirited, hard-hearted and clueless that just about any rhetoric against them can be justified," Kurtz wrote.

As Bond explained in the Hollywood Reporter, the original segment "had Harris-Perry showing newsworthy photos of 2013 to a panel and asking them to come up with clever captions. The one photo that didn't include an image of President Barack Obama was a Mitt Romney Christmas card that featured a photo of the former Republican candidate for president surrounded by his wife and grandchildren. On his lap sat infant Kieran Romney, the adopted black son of one of Romney's sons.


"On seeing the photo, one panelist, actress Pia Glenn sang, 'One of these things is not like the other … and that little baby, front and center, would be the one,' as Harris-Perry laughed. Another panelist, comedian Dean Obeidallah, joked that the image 'sums up the diversity of the Republican party.' Harris-Perry cracked up the panel of four with the notion that Kieran could some day marry North West, the child of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. 'Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?' she asked."

In her written Dec. 31 apology, Harris-Perry said, "The intent of featuring the photo was to celebrate it — I often speak to the issue of the increasingly diverse American family.


"Whatever the intent, the segment proceeded in an unexpected way that was offensive."

She also tweeted, "As black child born into large white Mormon family I feel familiarity w/ Romney family pic & never meant to suggest otherwise." Another tweet said, "I apologize to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices."


Soon, however, Harris-Perry's defenders stepped up, including, surprisingly, right-wing talk-show host Glenn Beck.

Wayne Bennett, who blogs as the Field Negro, wrote Saturday, "I know that I was one of the people saying that the panel on her show should have just left the issue of this child alone, but the right has blown this thing way out of proportion, and they are now using it to try and revive Mitt's political fortunes.


"I have said this before and it is worth repeating: Nobody plays the victim card like these wingnuts."

Beck seemed to agree. "I fear this time, our side sees blood in the water and is going after her and MSNBC. It's more than wrong than anything she said here, especially since their intent is to hurt and destroy, and hers was not," Beck said, according to Tracy Clayton, writing Monday for BuzzFeed.


It took time for the underlying issue of transracial adoptions to surface, but HuffPost BlackVoices published a piece Monday by Darron T. Smith, an African American Latter-day Saint, co-editor of the 2004 book "Black and Mormon," co-author of "White Parents, Black Children: Experiencing Transracial Adoption" in 2011, and an assistant professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

"What should have followed these witticisms was an honest discussion about the need for and challenges to transracial adoption. But the reality is most white Americans are uncomfortable with serious conversations about race unless it is carefully scripted and overly-sanitized," Smith wrote.


In a strongly worded essay Monday titled "The Smartest Nerd in the Room," the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates said Harris-Perry was supremely qualified to lead such a discussion.

"There is a sense that Romney's grandchild should be off-limits to mockery," Coates wrote. "That strikes me as fair. It also doesn't strike me that mocking was what Harris-Perry was doing. The problem was making any kind of light of a fraught subject — a black child being reared by a family whose essential beliefs were directly shaped by white supremacy, whose patriarch sought to lead a movement which derives most its energy from white supremacy." ["Until 1978, black males were not allowed to become priests or bishops; dark skin was considered a biblical curse," Susan Saulny reminded New York Times readers during the 2012 campaign.] That's a weighty subtext. But there is no one more worthy, and more capable, of holding that conversation than America's most foremost public intellectual — Melissa Harris-Perry.


"There may well be intellectuals with more insight. And there are surely public figures with a greater audience. But there is no one who communicates the work of thinking to more people with more rigor and effect than Harris-Perry. . . . "

Tommy Christopher, Mediaite: Alec Baldwin Mocks Melissa Harris-Perry Apology: 'If I Cry, Will I Be Forgiven?'


Michael H. Cottman, Melissa Harris-Perry Apologized; Critics Should Move On

Jason Easley, CNN Disgraces Journalism With Hit Piece That Tries to Get Melissa Harris-Perry Fired


Emil Guillermo, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education: Harris-Perry's Apology May Be Too Smart for Right-Wing Zealots

Don Lemon, The Art of the Apology — What We Can Learn from Melissa Harris-Perry & Others


Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Good TV hosts better mind their jokes, too

NBCLatino's Chris Peña Apparently Leaves Network

Chris Peña, an NBC veteran who oversaw NBCLatino, the first website of an English-language broadcast network news division specifically targeted to Hispanics, has apparently left the network.


NBCLatino is scheduled this month to be absorbed into, with three positions lost. However, NBC has declined to say publicly how many employees will be leaving or who they are.

An email to Peña on Monday produced the response, "I am transitioning from NBC Latino and will not have access to NBC email beginning Jan. 1," followed by instructions on reaching him through his personal email account and a declaration that he can be reached via Facebook and Twitter.


Emails and telephone calls to other NBCLatino staffers went unanswered Monday. The "About" page on the site lists 15 people, including Peña  and staff and nonstaff contributors.

Absorption of NBCLatino into "will allow its content to reach a much larger audience and it will further enhance NBC News's commitment and ability to cover news and issues that matter to the Latino community," Ali Zelenko, senior vice president, communications, told Journal-isms by email on Nov. 22. "Unfortunately this means a few positions will be eliminated. We are grateful to those affected for their contributions and are actively looking for other roles for them inside the company." She added on Nov. 25: "the nbclatino brand will remain."


Zelenko said Monday by email, " is what's relaunching this month. And otherwise the statement still stands, we continue to actively look for other roles inside the company for those affected."

Peña, who had been executive producer of WTVJ-TV in Miami and assistant news director of WMAQ-TV in Chicago, both NBC stations, spent a year at Columbia University as a Sulzberger Executive Leadership Fellow before returning to NBC News in June 2011 as executive editor of NBCLatino.


His LinkedIn profile says he was "architect of the development of Hispanic-focused, English-language news and information digital property for the NBC News Division.

"As Executive Editor of, [led] all aspects of the business from P&L [profit and loss] to operations, staffing & hiring, editorial direction and oversight of sales & marketing for the site.


"Led creation of business plan, development of editorial vision, oversight of technology buildout leading to the launch of the site.

"Increased the amount of diverse voices on the platforms of NBC News by recruiting a deep bench of contributors to, with a wide variety of expertise, who subsequently added their content to MSNBC, TODAY,, and Telemundo News. . . ."


'SNL' Hires Black Woman After Auditioning 2 Dozen

"After facing criticism over a lack of color in its female cast, 'Saturday Night Live' has added Sasheer Zamata, an African-American from Brooklyn, to its lineup as a featured player, NBC announced today," Kelly Woo reported for Yahoo News. "Zamata is the late night sketch show's first black female cast member since the biracial Maya Rudolph departed in 2007.


"Executive producer Lorne Michaels got heat when he added six new cast members at the start of this season, but none were black women. The problem became more glaring when 'Scandal' star Kerry Washington hosted in early November. Washington's opening sketch even poked fun at the issue; with her presence, 'SNL' was able to portray key figures like Michelle Obama and Beyonce.

"After Washington’s hosting gig made clear how much the show needed a black woman in the cast, Michaels did something he's never done before: He held targeted auditions with female African-American comedians.


"Zamata beat out two dozen other hopefuls. . . ."

Soraya Nadia McDonald, Washington Post: Sasheer Zamata joins cast of 'SNL'

Rachel McRady, US Weekly: Sasheer Zamata Cast on SNL: 5 Things to Know About the Comedienne


Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: No hoorays for Hollywood in portrayal of Latinos (Dec. 25)

NY Times: War on Poverty Kept Rate From Climbing Higher

"To many Americans, the war on poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon B. Johnson has largely failed," Annie Lowrey reported for the Sunday New York Times print edition. "The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations, and 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate.


"But looked at a different way, the federal government has succeeded in preventing the poverty rate from climbing far higher. There is broad consensus that the social welfare programs created since the New Deal have hugely improved living conditions for low-income Americans. At the same time, in recent decades, most of the gains from the private economy have gone to those at the top of the income ladder."

Lowrey also wrote, "In Washington, President Obama has called inequality the 'defining challenge of our time.' To that end, he intends to urge states to expand their Medicaid programs to poor, childless adults, and is pushing for an increase in the minimum wage and funding for early-childhood programs.


"But conservatives, like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have looked at the poverty statistics more skeptically, contending that the government has misspent its safety-net money and needs to focus less on support and more on economic and job opportunities. . . ."

James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Don't make poor kids work for their lunches (Dec. 26)


Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: An honest look at de Blasio's promise

Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: I'm supporting one man's attempt to lose weight and decrease effects of poverty


Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: Outsiders, occupy City Hall

Arloc Sherman, Sharon Parrott and Danilo Trisi, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Chart Book: The War on Poverty at 50


Older Blacks Less Likely to Go Online Than White Seniors

"The gap between whites and blacks when it comes to traditional measures of internet and broadband adoption is more pronounced among certain demographic subgroups than among others," Aaron Smith reported Monday for the Pew Research Center.


"Specifically, older African Americans, as well as those who have not attended college, are significantly less likely to go online or to have broadband service at home compared to whites with a similar demographic profile. African Americans age 65 and older have especially low adoption rates compared with whites. Just 45% of black seniors are internet users, and 30% have broadband at home (among white seniors, 63% go online and 51% are broadband adopters).

"On the other hand, young, college-educated, and higher-income African Americans are just as likely as their white counterparts to use the internet and to have broadband service at home. Some 86% of African Americans ages 18-29 are home broadband adopters, as are 88% of black college graduates and 91% of African Americans with an annual household income of $75,000 or more per year. These figures are all well above the national average for broadband adoption, and are identical to whites of similar ages, incomes, and education levels.


"Overall, 73% of African American internet users — and 96% of those ages 18-29 — use a social networking site of some kind. African Americans have exhibited relatively high levels of Twitter use since we began tracking the service as a stand-alone platform, and this continues to be the case — 22% of online blacks are Twitter users, compared with 16% of online whites. . . ."

Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Eileen Patten, Pew Research Center: Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption (March 7, 2013)


Detroit's Suzette Hackney Joins Toledo Blade Opinion Pages

Suzette Hackney, a staff writer at Detroit Free Press who was the sole U.S. journalist of color in the Knight-Wallace Fellows program at the University of Michigan for the 2012-13 academic year, is joining the Blade in her hometown of Toledo, Ohio, as an editorial writer and columnist.


"Excited to share that I’m going back to where it all started for me," Hackney wrote on Facebook Monday. "She'll start here this month," David Kushma, editorial page editor, messaged Journal-isms. "Good news travels fast."

Hackney's is only one job change among journalists of color:

"Mark DeCambre, formerly the Wall Street reporter for the NY Post, joins Quartz today as our new finance reporter. He's working from our NYC office and covering banks, hedge funds, and other global finance firms," Kevin Delaney, Quartz editor-in-chief, told staffers on Monday. "Mark brings years of experience covering finance, real estate, and energy for the Post, and Institutional Investor. He's broken a number of big stories you'd recognize, including the allegations earlier this year that Bloomberg reporters used terminals to snoop on Goldman Sachs employees . . . ."


"Juan Forero has left his job as South America correspondent for the Washington Post, to take on a new position as South America Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal," Veronica Villafañe reported Monday for Media Moves. "He started the new job today. In his new role, he will oversee about a dozen reporters working in all South American countries, excluding Brazil. The job entails editing as well as developing his own articles across the region. The job is a newly created position. Juan worked for the Washington Post from September of 2006, until December 2013. He was also NPR's South America correspondent for almost 7 years until May of 2013. . . ."

Ken Molestina joined KTVT-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth Monday as anchor/reporter, station spokeswoman Lori Conrad confirmed. "He will co-anchor the CBS 11 News Saturdays and Sundays and will report three days a week," she said. Molestina was a general assignment reporter at WUSA-TV in Washington and regional representative on the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Rebecca Aguilar, NAHJ vice president for online, told colleagues, "He will be the ONLY Latino anchorman in English-language TV news in North Texas. Yep, we're 50 million strong Latinos in the U.S., and only one Latino anchorman in a city with a HUGE Latino community. What's wrong with that picture? Sad but true."


"Rebecca Carroll has been hired as the new managing editor of xoJane, Jane Pratt’s confessional women’s website," Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke reported Monday for the New York Observer. "Ms. Carroll was the founding editor of and has been an editor at several online and print publications, including Paper Magazine, and the Huffington Post . . ." Bloomgarden-Smoke wrote.

Amanda Salinas, an anchor/reporter at KDAF-TV, the CW affiliate serving Dallas/Fort Worth, is "joining KTBC-TV in Austin, Texas, as co-anchor of Good Day Austin," the Austin station reported Monday. 


CNN on-air correspondent Victor Blackwell and HLN anchor Christi Paul were named co-anchors of CNN's weekend morning program "New Day Weekend," R. Thomas Umstead reported Monday for Multichannel News. Chief business correspondent Christine Romans becomes co-anchor of its early morning news program "Early Start." Zoraida Sambolin, who hosted the program, said last month she was leaving the network and returning to Chicago after battling cancer.

The Cox Media Group is launching "The Monica Pearson Show" on Atlanta's WALR-FM (KISS 104.1) Sundays from noon to 2 p.m., Radio Ink reported on Monday. "Pearson is the first woman and first minority to anchor the daily evening news in Atlanta, where she worked for 37 years at leading station WSB-TV," the site reported. Pearson said, "I consider myself the Madonna of broadcasting — always changing. . . ."


Short Takes

Fernando Vila, 28, vice president of programming for the new Fusion network; Tiffany Pham, 27, director of business development, strategic initiatives and partnerships for CBS; Nikhil Sethi, 25, co-founder of adaptly; and Uzoamaka Maduka, 26, cofounder of the American Reader, were among Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30" list of media figures for 2014.


Gregory D. Reid, 61, a news director at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia for the last 32 years, died of cancer at his home in Willingboro, N.J., on Dec. 21, Walter F. Naedele wrote Sunday for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "At various times, he directed 'the 4 o'clock, the 6 o'clock, and the morning show,' as well as the 11 p.m. show, his wife, Treena, said . . .," Naedele wrote.

"A debate over concentration of media ownership in Peru heated up this week, with the president accusing the largest media conglomerate of dangerously amassing influence and calling on the legislature to address the issue," Ryan Dube reported Thursday for the Wall Street Journal. "The dispute erupted after Grupo El Comercio's purchase last year of a majority stake in Empresa Periodistica Nacional SA, known as Epensa. The $17 million acquisition increased El Comercio's share of Peru's newspaper market to more than 70% of sales from about 50%.. . . ."


If you knew the story of Craig D. Lindsey, the unemployed pop culture writer and film critic who raised more than $7,800 on the Internet last week after asking for $900 to pay his rent, "you’d understand why life tastes sour to him," Josh Shaffer wrote Sunday for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. "He lost his mother and his grandmother, who raised him in Houston, in the same year. His mentally disabled brother wandered away from a care facility and was found dead years later. He got laid off from The News & Observer in 2011 and became one of many writers floundering in a hostile economy. He found freelance work at The Indy, the N&O and a string of other places, scraping by, applying for and not getting jobs as a security guard, unsuccessfully attempting to wait tables. Once, a man paid him $150 to write a letter to Bill Cosby, asking for help starting an all-black sailing team. 'I’ve gotten used to things not going well,' Lindsey explained. . . ." Lindsey also wrote his own story Friday for Broadcasting & Cable.

Greg Gross, who spent 32 years as a reporter and editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune and four years before that at the Associated Press, is now publisher and senior editor of the website "I'm Black and I Travel" and administrator of the Black Travel Bloggers group. He is quoted in "Traveling While Black," an essay by Farai Chideya published online Friday in the New York Times. Chideya, an author, broadcaster, and journalism professor at New York University, wrote, "Brown skin that's often perceived as 'otherness' in parts of America is not seen that way in much of the world. After traveling to more than 25 countries (and 48 of the states), I call being brown in a region of brown-skinned people 'masking.' . . ."


"Dennis Johnson, a TV programming exec and producer who was among the first African-Americans to rise through the Big Three network ranks, died Dec. 23 while on vacation in St. Barts" in the Caribbean. "He was 68," Variety reported on Monday. "A Virginia native and graduate of Temple U., Johnson had a nearly 20-year run at Showtime. He got his start as an NBC page working on 'The Tonight Show' in 1969. He advanced through several posts in the Peacock's comedy development department before moving to ABC as VP of programming in 1975." The obituary also said, "While at Showtime, he established a program for black filmmakers and served as president of the National Assn. of Minorities in Cable. He rose to senior VP of programming during his long run at the cabler, which ended in 2002. . . ."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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