Media critics have blasted MSNBC host Joy Reid and her defenders in the wake of her muddled response to homophobic posts on her old blog, calling her claims of being hacked "implausible," "bizarre," and reminiscent of those from former New York congressman Anthony Weiner.
Reid, who had previously apologized for separate offensive posts uncovered in December from her defunct Florida politics blog The Reid Report, denied responsibility for any of the posts uncovered last month by Mediaite.
The posts included comments indicating the writer didn't want to watch Brokeback Mountain because of the sight of two men having sex ("Does that make me homophobic? Probably?"), saying straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing, and a link to what the writer considered obviously closeted homosexual celebrities. Another included the writer suggesting Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.) wanted to fellate then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
When first confronted about her site's posts by Mediaite, Reid stated she could "unequivocally" say the newly uncovered posts were not her own writing, going on to rip "whoever corrupted the site" for the pain they caused with their skulduggery.
In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.
I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.
Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups."
"Cyber-security expert" Jonathan Nichols could not provide any evidence of hacking, however. His methodologies and claims of "screenshot manipulation" also did not pass muster, according to The Daily Beast, which employs Reid as a columnist.
"We have both evidence of fraudulent posts and evidence of screenshot manipulation," Nichols told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Except, that wasn’t quite so.
To support the screenshot forgery allegation, Nichols pointed to six images in the @Jamie_Maz Twitter timeline that he said were definitely not written by Reid nor posted by a hacker, but instead were outright fabricated images of posts that never appeared on the site. "The most obvious one was an instance where—it’s an easy one, it’ll stick in your head— [@Jamie_Maz] says Joy made statements about Eddie Murphy. It’s obviously false, she never made that claim."
Nichols said those six posts are nowhere to be found in the Internet Archive. But that is not true.
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On Saturday, Reid addressed the controversy at the outset of her program "AM Joy," and while she acknowledged there was no evidence to back her hacking claims, she said she did not "believe" she could write such things "because they are completely alien to me."
"I hired cybersecurity experts to see if somebody had manipulated my words or my former blog, and the reality is they have not been able to prove it," she said. "I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me. But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and I have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me."
She added she should have known better to have ever written or tweeted disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ community, stipulating she grew up in a household with "conservative" views on the subject.
Reid was bathed with praise by fellow MSNBCers like Nicolle Wallace, Rachel Maddow, and Ali Velshi, as well as by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Everyone of us will walk in @JoyAnnReid ‘s shoes some day – filled with remorse and regret over something we have said or done, but I predict that few will do so this eloquently. Sending support and admiration to you and your amazing panel and team @JoyAnnReid https://t.co/qV26Rcy6D9
— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) April 28, 2018
Joy Ann Reid apology. Appropriate. Heartfelt. This unique and compelling voice for tolerance and equality should not be silenced. We learn – and change – from our mistakes. She has.
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) April 28, 2018
Big Love to @JoyAnnReid AND her brave panel for taking this issue head on and moving our understanding of LGBTQ issues forward
— Ali Velshi (@AliVelshi) April 28, 2018
Brains, guts, heart and soul — beloved Joy Reid has always been a treasured and brilliant colleague, but I've never been prouder to work with her than I am now. https://t.co/J95uL3CjMv
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) April 28, 2018
Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple ripped Reid and her defenders in a scathingly sarcastic piece, titled, "We must rally around Joy Reid." He implicitly compared her to Weiner, the sexting congressman who at first denied responsibility for a lewd photo he tweeted to a woman in 2011 by saying he was hacked. The scandal ultimately led to his resignation.
"When has anyone ever made up a claim about hacking anyway?" Wemple wrote, linking to a story about Weiner.
Wemple took exception to the idea Reid couldn't remember penning posts of that nature. He sarcastically laid out the storyline as "entirely plausible" and continued to mock the idea of an evil hacker committed to making Reid look like a homophobe a decade ago:
Reid cannot give up now. If her original experts haven’t been able to redeem her own fine-tuned instincts, it’s time to hire new ones. Have them rummage through archives, screenshots, passcodes, digital trails from the 2000s. Put them in touch with the FBI, hold conference calls, put out press releases, sue someone.
Why keep this investigation going? Because of the stakes. Somewhere out there is a hacker — or perhaps an entire collective — specializing in retroactive-digital-homophobia-archival-insertion intrusions. This time they victimized Joy Reid. But tomorrow they could go after anyone in the industry. They’ll memorize old blogging archives; they’ll study fonts and writing styles; they’ll turn back the web’s clock a decade, then push it forward, then drop some inflammatory text on some platform. They’ll make everyone think that their targets are way more homophobic than they ever were, regardless of their ability to "evolve" on gay rights.
The left-leaning HuffPost praised Reid for evolving in her positions regarding the LGBTQ community but faulted her defenders ignoring her story's "monumental gaps in plausibility." It noted the "stark contrast" of her passive denial on her program Saturday with the full-throated one she offered when she claimed her site had been manipulated.
"It is striking—and disturbing—that Reid’s colleagues and her employer aren’t demanding answers about her seemingly contradictory statements on the alleged hacking," reporter Hayley Miller wrote.
Mediaite managing editor Aidan McLaughlin called Reid's response "bizarre and non-sensical."
"The outrage over the Reid affair has little to do with a series of embarrassing posts she wrote a decade ago reflecting beliefs she clearly no longer holds today," he wrote. "It has to do with the increasingly obvious impression that she has concocted an implausible hacking fable to avoid accountability for those old posts, and continues to lie by claiming she genuinely believes she was hacked despite the absurdity of the hacking claims and dearth of evidence supporting them. And she remains enabled by a news organization that ostensibly exists to report on facts."
Vox‘s Germany Lopez wrote there was "always reason to be skeptical" of Reid's hacking claim.
"For one, the blog posts were archived by internet crawlers and, in those archives, really dated to the mid-to-late 2000s — a time when Reid wasn’t an MSNBC host or even a widely known national figure, raising questions about why someone would bother hacking her," he wrote.
After Reid's opening statement on her Saturday show, she had on a panel of LGBTQ guests to "grill" her about her past, which included tweets joking Ann Coulter was a man. The tone of the discussion on Reid's program was largely friendly, however, leading McLaughlin to call it "a glaringly cynical move by Reid and MSNBC."
New York Magazine writer Chas Danner said Reid's statement was an "incomplete admission that is unlikely to dissuade concerns about Reid’s journalistic credibility."
"Many of us have held deplorable views in the past, or may end up considering our current views to be such in the future," Danner wrote. "Figuring that out often requires getting dragged into the light, or watching somebody else get dragged there first, but it can also be a choice. For whatever reason, Reid missed an opportunity to lean into this controversy from the start, and to leverage and expand, rather than damage, her credibility."
The Daily Beast noted by the end of the segment, the panelists had taken the focus off Reid entirely:
"This is a part of the new political and cultural landscape in this country. It is search and destroy," GLAAD vice president Zeke Stokes said. "This is part of a concerted effort by people who do want to roll back our progress to take down voices that are powerful that are our allies."
Stokes also criticized the media for reporting on Reid’s blog posts.
"They felt there was some blood in the water and there was going to be infighting, and everyone was going to jump on Joy Reid and bring her down," he said.
BuzzFeed reporter Joe Bernstein tweeted a source close to Reid believes Reid believes she was hacked, "but knowing Joy, the source tells me, that doesn't necessarily mean she really was."
A source close to @JoyAnnReid tells me they believe she believes she was hacked. But knowing Joy, the source tells me, that doesn't necessarily mean she really was.
— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) April 25, 2018
The outspokenly progressive Reid has become a media favorite among critics of President Donald Trump. A New York Times profile of how she became a "Heroine of the Resistance" opens with an anecdote of a fierce exchange between her and Trump supporter Pastor Mark Burns.
"It was a classically no-nonsense performance from Ms. Reid, 49, who has hosted ‘AM Joy' weekend mornings on MSNBC since 2016," reporter Laura M. Holson wrote.
In the article, Reid criticized Trump's fondness of calling negative stories about himself "fake news."
"Now, something is ‘true’ because you like it," Reid said, describing how "true" news and "fake" news had been subjectively determined. "If the information is displeasing to you or makes you uncomfortable, or is in opposition to your ideology, then it is ‘fake.’"
Reid formerly hosted a weekday show "The Reid Report" from 2014 to 2015. After it was cancelled, she became a national correspondent for MSNBC and then began to host "AM Joy" in 2016.
MSNBC spokespersons did not respond to Washington Free Beacon questions about whether Reid would face any punitive action in the wake of the controversy.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 11:02 A.M.: This article was updated with Danner's writing about Reid and MSNBC not responding to questions about whether Reid would face any disciplinary action.