MSNBC host Joy Reid on Tuesday stood by her claim that hackers “fabricated” old blog posts to make her appear homophobic, sharing a statement from a cybersecurity expert alleging her website was breached.
Reid, who is also a columnist for The Daily Beast, apologized last year after Twitter users dug up decade-old blog posts in which she mocked then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist by repeatedly referring to him as “Miss Charlie.” The posts claimed that Crist was secretly gay, and spent his honeymoon wishing he could be with men.
In a statement, the AM Joy host acknowledged the posts were “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.”
But on Monday, Mediaite unearthed other homophobic blog posts—using archived versions of her now-defunct blog cached over time by web-archiving site The Wayback Machine—in which Reid appeared to mock gay celebrities like Anderson Cooper and Clay Aiken; defended homophobia by saying “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing… Does that make me homophobic? Probably”; wrote that she did not want to watch Brokeback Mountain because of the gay sex scenes; and made other, similar comments about homosexuality.
Reid’s initial response to Mediaite’s reporting was to claim that “In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog… to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.” She described her former blog as “compromised” by unspecified hackers, and said she is working with a cyber-security expert on the matter.
Skeptics of Reid’s hacking cast doubt on her claims, noting that hackers would have somehow needed to alter not just her old blog, but also manipulate the Wayback Machine’s archive of her pages.
The internet-archiving website denies any such breach could have occurred.
“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 At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities,” an archiver for the site said in a statement to Splinter News.
Reid’s lawyers sent the website a letter in Dec. 2017 alleging the manipulation of its archives. “We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation,” the statement continued.
In a lengthy post, citing several digital security experts, The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, a frequent critic of Reid’s, bashed the MSNBC host’s claims: “Only one of two things can be true here, and they are both rather consequential: Either (a) hackers found a way to effectively alter the digital archives of the Wayback Machine in order to smear the name of a major TV news personality by attributing fabricated content to her, or (b) this major TV news personality is lying—not 10 years ago, but today—in order to falsely deny authorship of her own journalism.”
And late Tuesday evening, Reid provided a statement from Jonathan Nichols, an independent security consultant, pushing back on the skeptics.
“At no time has Ms. Reid claimed that the Wayback Machine was hacked,” Nichols wrote, “though early in our investigation, we were made aware of a breach at archive.org which may have correlated with the fraudulent blog posts we observed on their website.”
Nichols further claimed that “we have significant evidence indicating that not only was Ms. Reid’s old blog compromised, some of the recently circulated posts were not even on the site at any time, suggesting that these [archived] instances may be the result of screenshot manipulation with the intent to tarnish Ms. Reid’s character.”
While Nichols did not provide the aforementioned evidence, he asserted that “we are continuing our own investigation and cooperating with federal law enforcement in their attempt to identify the source of this activity.”
The Tuesday statement came after media reporters found old tweets—not among those disputed blog posts—that echoed similarly homophobic and transphobic sentiments. In one 2011 tweet, she referred to Ann Coulter as a “drag queen,” and in other contemporaneous tweets, she repeatedly called the conservative pundit a “dude” or “shim,” and again referred to then-Gov. Crist as “Miss Charlie.”
LGBTQ advocacy organization PFLAG was set to honor Reid with the Straight in Equality award next month, but has since nullified that prize in light of recent developments.
“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’s 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.”