Every now and again, my broader industry needs a good jolt back to center after stepping over the line of decency.
Occasionally, we in the news media even apologize when we’ve inserted collective feet into mouths. In the case of a recent MSNBC host, the foot went darn near down her throat. To her credit, she apologized, but the racially charged words at the center of the controversy beg broader questions of the moral limits needed in dealing with the family members of political figures.
It was bad enough when MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry poked fun on her Dec. 29 show at former Republican, conservative presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s family photo. For those who missed the story in the blur of the holiday season, the butt of the joke was Romney’s adopted black grandson who was sitting on famous grandad’s lap for their family Christmas card photo.
Professionalism took a dive when Harris-Perry chanted the Sesame Street ditty, “One of these things is not like the other,” and another guest on the show noted that the one black child in a sea of white Romney family members demonstrated the diversity of the Republican Party.
Full disclosure: This one hit close to home. Anyone who reads my column with any regularity knows I lean conservative on many issues, particularly fiscal ones. I’m also the proud father of a little adopted princess who happens to be black.
I’ve never been a big Romney booster, but I applaud him and his children for welcoming an adopted child into their home based on love – not skin color. This is something to be celebrated, not chided. So the apology by the MSNBC commentator, who also happens to be black, was necessary and welcome.
I would expect similar apologies from the more right-leaning Fox News if one of its hosts made an off-color comment about President Obama’s lovely daughters.
But put aside for a moment the racial issue – and the apparent cave-dwelling mentality of some supposedly socially liberated folks who can’t fathom conservatives embracing diversity in their families. We really need to ask why the host thought the photo was fair game for commentary at all.
Romney is no longer running for any office. And his adorable grandson has absolutely nothing to do with the man’s past, present or future politics.
This should be a wake-up call for all of my news media colleagues. Let’s stick to the issues and the people at the center of the issues. There is plenty of public domain material to break down, critique and even spin into satire without targeting a little adopted boy sitting on the lap of his proud grandfather.
I’m not a fan of the song, but the tune “Blurred Lines” was a viral hit in 2013. The MSNBC host showed why as the year was expiring.