LisaColumn__131015210634-275x1982ND UPDATE, 8:20 AM: Will cable news programs steer clear of comedy after MSNBC‘s botched Melissa Harris-Perry end-of-year show left her tearily apologizing for the show’s gags targeting Mitt Romney‘s adopted black grandson, and Fox News Channel devoting yet more airtime to MSNBC’s show host foot-in-mouth epidemic? Most recently, Romney was a guest on Fox News MelissaHarris-Perrythis past Sunday, in the course of which, during a segment known as “Romney Reacts To MSNBC For Mocking Family Photo”, he told Chris Wallace, “I recognize that people make mistakes and the folks at MSNBC made a big mistake. They’ve apologized for it. That’s all you can ask for. I am going to move on from that. I am sure they want to move on from it. Look, I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself and they’ve apologized for this and, you know, I think we can go on from there.”

The reference was to MSNBC show Melissa Harris-Perry‘s second annual “Look Back In Laughter” telecast, which was supposed to “look back on some of the political absurdity of 2013.” In that episode, a panel of comics was charged with concocting captions to political photos from 2013. Harris-Perry and her producers thought the Romney family Christmas photo — large, white family with tiny black baby on Mitt’s lap — was on topic. One of Harris-Perry’s comedy panelists began to sing snatches of the Sesame Street tune “One Of These Things is Not Like The Others” and Harris-Perry tried her hand at comedy by riffing about her hopes for a marriage between the baby boy named Kieran, and North West — Kanye’s daughter with Kim Kardashian.

Having comics on news programs is always fraught with danger — who can forget Jon Stewart’s infamous appearance on CNN’s original Crossfire, ostensibly to promote his funny new book. But Harris-Perry’s mixing of comics and politics came at a particularly difficult time for MSNBC, what with two other MSNBC hosts having been resigned from their programs over incendiary comments made on and off the air. Harris-Perry began her most recent program with a teary apology for the Romney grandson gags.

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News shows aren’t the only NBC program to take a lashing over comic’s cracks. But comedian Natasha Leggero took a different approach than did Harris-Perry, refusing to apologize for her stab at humor during NBC’s New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly, then shifted blame to critics of her joke for not doing more to help WWII veterans. Interesting strategy — but then, Leggero doesn’t have a regular program on an NBC platform. Leggero had been among the guests commenting on a SpaghettiO’s marketing/tweet commemorating Pearl Harbor Day: “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.”

“It sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew,” Leggero snarked.

“I wish I could apologize, but do you really want another insincere apology that you know is just an attempt at damage control and not a real admission of guilt?” Leggero said late last week — a thinly veiled reference to Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin’s MSNBC apologies. “On the one hand you have me, making a joke about how old people can’t chew tough foods very well. On the other hand you have veterans who receive inadequate care upon their return from active duty, rampant sexual assault against female soldiers, staggering rates of suicide, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse and depression among soldiers and political gridlock that prevents these problems from getting solved quickly…Where do you think your outrage and action would be better served, calling me a c*** or doing something about the above problems?”

UPDATE, SUNDAY AM: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry started her January 4 on Sunday show with an on-air apology for last week’s joke about Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson. “My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground rule that families are off limits, and for that I am sorry,” she said:

PREVIOUS, TUESDAY PM: This time it’s Melissa Harris-Perry, apologizing before dawn on msnbc-logo__120525174027-200x140New Year’s Eve, for an exchange on her MSNBC Sunday show (also called Melissa Harris-Perry) in which she and her panelists joked about a Mitt Romney family photo — specifically about the Romney’s recently adopted black grandchild, Kieran. One panelist drew attention to the large white family’s one black member with snatches of the Sesame Street tune “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others,” while Harris-Perry prattled on merrily about her hopes for a future marriage of Kieran MelissaHarris-PerryRomney and North West — Kayne West’s daughter with Kim Kardashian. The discussion of the photo had been part of the show’s second annual Look Back In Laughter franchise, in which the program said it would “look back on some of the political absurdity of 2013.” (See the video below.)

Related: Martin Bashir Resigns From MSNBC, Joining Alec Baldwin


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Those tweets also were posted at noon ET on MSNBC.com, along with this further apology:

An Apology From Melissa Harris-Perry:

On Sunday’s program, we showed a photo of Governor Romney holding his adopted grandson, who is African-American. 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. Without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family and to all families built on loving transracial adoptions.

This has been a banner year for MSNBC show host apologies. To recap:

In November, Martin Bashir apologized for having, a few days earlier, criticized Sarah Palin for having compared U.S. indebtedness to China to slavery by citing a former plantation overseer who punished slaves by having someone defecate their mouth and suggesting on-air that Palin was a candidate for same treatment. “Upon reflection, I so wish that I’d been more thoughtful, more considerate, more compassionate,” Bashir said in his apology. “I deeply regret what I said.”

Also in November, Up Late host Alec Baldwin released an apology after a video clip caught him tearing into a photographer with at least one gay slur and possibly two, during a street confrontation. MSNBC suspended his five-week-old show, though Baldwin denied uttering the second slur and says he did not realize the first was, in fact,  a slur.

Bashir and Baldwin subsequently left the network.

Here’s the Harris-Perry clip: