MSNBC host Joy Reid is making national news—not for revving up her fans in the anti-Trump Resistance, but for homophobic remarks that have surfaced from her now-defunct blog and years-old tweets.
If it feels like you’ve heard this one before, it’s because you have. The issue is bubbling up yet again—and this time, Reid’s excuse for the comments has taken a turn toward the truly bizarre.
First, some background: A full decade ago, when she was still a morning talk show host in south Florida, Reid edited a politics blog called The Reid Report. She used that blog to write, among other things, an ugly string of posts attempting to out then-Florida Governor Charlie Crist as gay, repeatedly referring to him as “Miss Charlie,” calling his marriage to a woman a fraud, and even speculating about their sex life and wondering if Crist’s wife had to cope with him “ogling the male waiters” on their honeymoon. She also suggested that if Crist somehow made his way onto John McCain’s 2008 ticket, he would be too preoccupied doing things like picking out “flamingo-shaped napkins” to get anything done in the White House.
A lefty Twitter user laid all these findings out in a November 2017 Twitter thread, with receipts from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine:
Days later, Reid, who was by then hosting her own weekend politics show on MSNBC, apologized for the posts, which she called “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.” She also pointed to her friends in the LGBTQ community as evidence she’s not homophobic. Crist accepted her apology on Twitter, and everyone seemed to move on, satisfied that Reid—like many Democrats—had simply “evolved” on the issue of LGBTQ equality in the intervening years.
But on Monday, things got weird again. After the same Twitter user unearthed even more offensive content from Reid’s old blog using Wayback—which archives publicly available internet content even if it’s been removed or deleted by its author—Mediaite published an extensive story about the latest posts. Among the deeply offensive posts contained therein (and far from an exhaustive list):
- Reid defending the former NBA star Tim Hardaway saying that he hates “gay people,” by saying “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing...Does that make me homophobic? Probably.”
- In the same post, she went on to write that it’s “intrinsic” for heterosexual people to believe that “homosexual sex...is...well...gross.”
- A 2006 post counting down the “totally not gay celebrities of the year,” a list that included Clay Aiken, Tom Cruise, and Anderson Cooper at No. 1.
- Idly floating an “interesting question” about whether you could “manipulate the genes of your unborn child” to make sure they’re not gay.
- Promoting the insidious and deeply old stereotype that gay men are just predators and pedophiles seeking out “impressionable teens.”
- An obsession with the movie Brokeback Mountain (its premise of a love story between two men was “too out there” for her, and she said again that she just didn’t want to watch a sex scene between men).
When Mediaite reached out to Reid about those posts, things took a strange turn: Instead of just apologizing, as she’d already done once before, Reid insisted the blog posts published under her name were the work of “unknown, external” hackers:
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.
So Reid is arguing that hackers wormed their way into the Wayback Machine to edit her archived posts to add more anti-LGBTQ content to smear her. Splinter has reached out to Reid and MSNBC for comment and will update this post if and when we hear back.
In response to Splinter reaching out for comment, an Internet Archive staffer pointed to a new blog post on their site repudiating Reid’s claims that malevolent forces manipulated her site (emphasis added):
When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions. At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities.
We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation. Consequently, and due to Reid’s being a journalist (a very high-profile one, at that) and the journalistic nature of the blog archives, we declined to take down the archives. We were clear that we would welcome and consider any further information that they could provide us to support their claims.
As Glenn Greenwald pointed out at The Intercept, basically any security breach is theoretically possible, although Jeffrey Carr, the cybersecurity expert he spoke with, said: “I’ve never heard of that happening but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen, I guess.”
It would also seem that—if hackers were routinely able to penetrate Wayback—it could carry serious implications for the integrity of the internet’s archives, which includes news stories. Reid’s blog is now deleted, and the site’s robots.txt—a file websites use to communicate with search engine web crawlers and other web robots—currently blocks the Wayback Machine from displaying its own copies of the site and from creating any new ones in the future. The Internet Archive has a long-standing policy of retroactively removing websites whose robots.txt files block its web crawler.
(According to Reid’s site’s robots.txt history, Feb. 21, 2018 appears to be the first day the file was altered to exclude all crawlers, and it was edited again on March 5 to specifically target the Internet Archive. The robot.txt telling crawlers to ignore the site then proceeded to disappear and reappear numerous times between March and April, although it’s not clear exactly why.)
It’s a bizarre development given Reid’s past comments about the LGBTQ community, which she owned up to and apologized for. She’s also clearly been forgiven; she’s even slated to be honored by the LGBTQ rights organization PFLAG, which is giving her its Straight for Equality in Media award on May 9. (Update: PFLAG has rescinded that award.)
As harsh as the new crop of blogs are, they aren’t far off from homophobic messages that she’s tweeted from her verified account:
Reid also previously attacked Chelsea Manning in a transphobic Twitter thread, and framed Manning’s reports of torture as complaints about needing a “pillow.” All of this would seem to cast doubt on Reid evoking the “I’ve been hacked” excuse, which is such an old, widely-recognized dodge that it’s become a Twitter meme.
The MSNBC host is clearly trying a new tactic to face down embarrassing old comments coming back to haunt her this time around. Unless we’re presented with some concrete evidence that such an elaborate hack of Reid’s archives transpired, let’s hope she doesn’t get away with it quite so easily.
J.K. Trotter, a reporter with GMG’s Special Projects Desk, contributed reporting to this piece.
Update, 8:55 PM ET, 04/24/2018: Since the publication of this post, PFLAG has rescinded the Straight in Equality award that it was slated to give Reid in May.
“When we extended our invitation to Ms. Reid to honor her at our 45th anniversary celebration, we did so knowing about the blog posts from the late 2000s regarding Charlie Crist,” PFLAG president Jean Hodges said in a statement. “We appreciated how she stepped up, took ownership, apologized for them, and did better—this is the behavior and approach we ask of any ally. However, in light of new information, and the ongoing investigation of that information, we must at this time rescind our award to Ms. Reid.”
Update, 11:52 PM ET, 04/24/2018: Reid’s “security consultant” released a statement earlier tonight. It’s...something: