The Joy Reid of 2006 was a childish jerk. This seems more or less undeniable given what's emerged in the past week, as blog posts have shown she used crude and gay-baiting language to insult those she disagreed with and expressed a personal squeamishness toward homosexuality in general. It's the sort of behavior that, had it happened today, would probably see her fired in an instant.
The Joy Reid of today admitted as much last December when excerpts of her blog posts mocking then-Republican politician Charlie Crist as a closeted gay man and calling him "Miss Charlie" came to light. Reid apologized, calling the blog posts "insensitive, tone deaf and dumb."
"Re-reading those old blog posts, I am disappointed in myself. I apologize to those who also are disappointed in me. Life can be humbling. It often is. But I hope that you know where my heart is, and that I will always strive to use my words for good. I know better and I will do better," she wrote.
I don't think anyone can fault her for that statement. People age and their opinions change. Reid's posts date back to a time when a strong majority of Americans and half of Democrats didn't support gay marriage, and the social acceptability of homosexuality was very much an open question. That doesn't excuse her behavior or language, but an entire country went through growing pains on the issue.
Had she stuck with that response, I'd be defending her today and rebuking those who want her punished. We're all allowed some personal growth and some room to change. You cannot be "woke," as Reid calls herself, unless your eyes were once closed.
But between that statement and today, something changed. When the new round of crude and offensive posts emerged, Reid went full truther, insisting that either her website or the Internet Archive had been hacked, and other screenshots of her posts were fabricated. Per Reid's statement to Mediaite, she came to the conclusion after "working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity."
Huffington Post, Vox, and the Atlantic are not particularly right-wing outlets, and have all run pieces outlining how utterly unlikely it is Reid's story is true. "I assess there is a near zero-chance that the claims of hacking are credible," one expert told WIRED.
Perhaps the most detailed shredding of Reid's claim came from the same outlet that runs her column: the Daily Beast. After the Beast's reporters spoke to Reid's "expert" and managed to debunk his every claim, he was forced to present the current explanation: Reid's hacker infiltrated her website over a decade ago and then posted fake posts for several years, alongside Reid's legitimate posts, sometimes changing headlines, sometimes even adding entries to a liveblog as Reid was updating it herself, without Reid ever noticing.
The only remaining question is whether Reid is lying or completely delusional. There are strong cases to be made for both. While no one is proud of the terrible opinions we held over a decade ago, we usually at least remember that we once held them. If someone presented me with comments GrizSeph1roth7 made on the NeoGAF Fire Emblem boards back in 2006, I would grudgingly admit that, yes, I once thought Satan put fossils in the ground.
But we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Joy Reid really is delusional. In the most telling insight yet, Buzzfeed's Joe Bernstein reported earlier this week that "a source close to [Reid] tells me they believe she believes she was hacked. But knowing Joy, the source tells me, that doesn't necessarily mean she really was."
That fits with what we know. Per Reid's statement, she didn't believe that her blog was hacked until the "expert" approached her and told her that he suspected it was. It was then that she began to believe that the embarrassing posts didn't belong to her and she was the victim of a smear campaign.
It seems equally likely to me that Reid was taken in by a charlatan who presented her with the excuse she needed to absolve herself of any guilt. Years of following Reid's Twitter has taught me that she is insanely credulous about fake news stories marketed towards liberal audience. When I find a bogus story circulating #resistance Twitter, I always check her feed first. Time and time and time and time again, she's the one spreading it.
Maybe it's a complete inability to mentally process that fact that she was once wrong. Maybe Reid is shockingly dishonest. Either way, Reid's "hacking" defense is an embarrassment to herself, to NBC, and to those defending her.
People are allowed to mature. That the Joy Reid of 2006 was an ass is forgivable. That the Joy Reid of 2018 refuses to act like an adult and own up to her mistakes is not.