The MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has made a tearful on-screen apology for an “offensive” segment in which comedians made fun of the former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson.
The show received widespread criticism after Harris-Perry included a picture of Mr Romney with his grandchildren, all of whom are white except for baby Kieran, in a review of the year entitled “ Look Back in Laughter”.
Guests including actress Pia Glenn and comedian Dean Obeidallah were asked to provide a caption for the photograph, and Glenn responded by singing “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others” from Sesame Street, adding: “And that little baby, left and centre, would be the one.”
Obeidallah suggested that the photograph summed up “the diversity of the Republican Party” and said that just like they do “ at the convention”, they had “found the one black person”.
Harris-Perry initially apologised on Twitter after viewers branded the show abusive and cruel, but went a step further at the start of her programme yesterday.
“Whatever the intent was,” she said, “the reality is that the segment proceeded in a way that was offensive, and showing the photo in that context, of that segment, was poor judgment.
“So without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule.”
Struggling to hold back tears, she said that her intention was “ not to be malicious”, adding that she “broke the ground rule, families are off limits”.
The original segment was criticised by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said “the hypocritical leftist lamestream media should be shamed by every caring, child-loving American”.
The controversy comes after the British journalist Martin Bashir resigned from his job at MSNBC following inappropriate on-air comments suggesting someone should defecate in Sarah Palin's mouth.