MEDIA
04/29/2018 06:18 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2018

Joy Reid's Defenders Praise Her Apology — But Ignore Her Apparent Cover-Up

The MSNBC host's most ardent fans are willing to turn a blind eye to her hacking claims, and that's unsettling.
MSNBC

Joy Reid has apologized for writing anti-LGBTQ posts on her old blog, but she still has not answered important questions about her honesty and journalistic integrity.

A weeklong saga surrounding her claims that The Reid Report, her now-defunct blog, was subject to a cyberattack culminated with the MSNBC host apologizing ― once again ― for previously espousing homophobic positions.

The host of “AM Joy” said on air Saturday that her opinions have evolved since writing “offensive” statements several years ago. She echoed an apology she delivered in December after screenshots surfaced of blog posts she wrote between 2007 and 2009 that accused a former Florida governor of being a closeted gay man.

Many of her most vocal supporters online have enthusiastically accepted her apologies, concluding ― and rightly so ― that people should be allowed to re-examine their beliefs over time. 

What stands out, though, is the ease with which her supporters have accepted her hacking claims, ignoring monumental gaps in plausibility.

Surely people needn’t condemn Reid’s character to eternal damnation over this incident, but the public can ― and should ― demand transparency and truth from journalists.

After screenshots appearing to capture dozens of her past homophobic blog posts were tweeted the previous week, Reid told Mediaite last Monday that she didn’t author the posts. According to her initial statement, “an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material ... to include offensive and hateful references.” Reid said that the newly revealed content “seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information.”

“I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries,” she said. “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.”

But the hacking claims fell apart under scrutiny from several media outlets. Documents and statements provided to HuffPost by Reid’s hired cybersecurity consultant, Jonathan Nichols, failed to prove Reid’s blog had been hacked or that the disputed posts were in fact fraudulent. 

"I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me," Reid said on her TV show S
NurPhoto via Getty Images
"I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me," Reid said on her TV show Saturday.

What’s more, these homophobic statements Reid has been accused of writing aren’t a major departure from what she’s already owned up to, nor are they far from the liberal blogging norms of the mid-2000s, as Richard Kim noted in The Nation.

Nichols also told HuffPost that the alleged posts captured in the recent batch of screenshots never existed on Reid’s blog. But HuffPost and other outlets found this simply wasn’t true. You can view the alleged posts in full here.

Many of Reid’s followers either cast doubt on reports calling into question the veracity of her hacking claims or pledged unwavering support even if the claims proved untrue.

Reid returned to her show this Saturday, after nearly a week of noticeable silence on her social media pages. She addressed the alleged hacking, saying her hired cybersecurity experts could not prove it happened, but that she doesn’t think she wrote the posts.

“When a friend found them in December and sent them to me, I was stunned,” Reid said. “Frankly, I couldn’t imagine where they’d come from or whose voice that was. In the months since, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of these posts.”

“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 continued. “But here’s what I know: 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 have written in the past why some people don’t believe me.”

Her comments appeared in stark contrast to her initial statement.

Reid apologized for her past anti-trans comments about conservative host Ann Coulter, who Reid called a “dude” and a “drag queen” on Twitter in 2011. She explained that she grew up in a household that had “conservative views” on the LGBTQ community.

The next 30 minutes or so of Saturday’s show were dedicated to discussion with a panel of LGBTQ activists on the ways “hurtful speech” imperils marginalized communities.

Reid did not say whether her hired cybersecurity experts were continuing to investigate the alleged hacking, nor did she provide new details about the FBI’s alleged investigation into the matter, as confirmed by her attorney Wednesday. She did not address the posts at all during her show Sunday, nor did any of her guests bring them up.

Support from Reid’s defenders, including several MSNBC reporters, flooded Twitter over the weekend.

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. In her initial statement, Reid said a cybersecurity expert had “identified ... unauthorized activity” on her blog that resulted in numerous “fabricated” posts. But on Saturday, Reid said her hired experts couldn’t prove it. 

MSNBC has not publicly released a statement supporting Reid. On Sunday, a MSNBC spokesman told NPR’s David Folkenflik that network executives “remain supportive of Reid.”

A representative for MSNBC declined to provide HuffPost with evidence suggesting Reid’s blog had been subject to “unauthorized activity,” as Reid claimed in her initial statement. Nichols did not respond to a request for additional comment.

MSNBC also hasn’t responded to a request for comment about whether the network is conducting an internal investigation into Reid’s story.

If the network can’t be trusted to seek truth in its own organization, how can it expect its viewers to trust it to seek truth from the highest levels of the government?

Memory is malleable, and it’s possible that Reid, when first confronted with the latest batch of screenshots, genuinely believed that she did not write them. But as a journalist and public intellectual, she had an obligation to thoroughly examine whether she wrote the items that she now views as hateful. Instead, she waved away this responsibility by declaring that she does not “believe” she wrote them.

At a time when the press is routinely attacked by the Trump administration, integrity should be of the utmost importance to every media organization. Reid is obviously well-liked by liberals, and as a female political analyst of color she offers a voice that’s often underrepresented on cable news.

Surely people needn’t condemn Reid’s character to eternal damnation over this incident, but the public can ― and should ― demand transparency and truth from journalists. As some of Reid’s most high-profile defenders have noted in the past, our democracy depends on it.

This article has been updated to note that an MSNBC spokesman’s comment to NPR was not an official statement from the network.

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