MSNBC host Joy Reid on Wednesday night said she should have been more “sensitive” two days earlier when she seemingly compared radicalized Trump supporters to “the way Muslims act,” remarks that sparked outrage among Muslim activists and organizations.
More specifically, it was a non-apology.
“For decades, America’s Muslim community has endured blanket portrayals that focus on one thing, not their families or individual achievements or even anything about Islam,” she said Wednesday. “Nope, just one thing: terrorism. Particularly after 9/11, profiling became a near American obsession for anybody Brown—god forbid with a beard or headscarf, whether they were Muslim or not, traveling through an airport could be hell. Physical attacks on not just Muslims, but Sikhs, who are not Muslim, increased.”
After noting how prevalent anti-Muslim stereotypes have been in media and entertainment, Reid then wondered aloud why there was a double standard when it came to describing extremism among white right-wingers compared to Muslim terrorism, taking aim at how the president has radicalized his base.
“It’s the misportrayal that is the problem,” she stated. “We’re all too quick to call out those who radicalize young men who are vulnerable. There have been treatments of this all over cable news for years. But when white Christians are radicalized, we don’t react the same way. When was the last time Donald Trump or anyone in his campaign was asked if they are willing to condemn the Boogaloo Boys by name?”
Touching on her own remarks, Reid was largely unapologetic, insisting that her comments were taken in bad faith and misconstrued.
“I asked that question on Monday, and there was a lot of conversation, particularly online after the segment aired, some of which was frankly not in good faith,” the ReidOut host declared. “But some of the conversation reflected the genuine feelings of people who have been subjected to the kind of stereotyping that I just described.”
“And who take matters like this to heart because of it,” she continued. “And we should all be sensitive to that, and I certainly should have been sensitive to that.”
She then turned to Newsweek editor-at-large Naveed Jamali, who was her guest during the Monday discussion, and said it was “not exactly the most artful way of asking that question, obviously, based on the reaction.”
“The way that I framed it obviously didn’t work,” she added.
Besides Jamali, Reid also brought on Dalia Mogahed, the director of research for The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, to discuss whether Reid made a “fair analogy."
Mogahed, for her part, said that Reid has “always given Muslim voices a fair shake” before noting that while the MSNBC host “intended” to ask a fair question, the way “it landed” was “unintentionally saying that Muslims were inherently violent.”
“And though that was not your intention, it is important to correct that notion for your millions of viewers,” Mogahed added.
During a panel discussion on Monday’s broadcast of The ReidOut, Reid—a former columnist for The Daily Beast—tried to make a point about President Donald Trump stoking violence among his base, pointing to the president liking a tweet praising vigilante teen Kyle Rittenhouse and dismissing pro-Trump protesters shooting demonstrators with paintball guns.
“When leaders, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence including on their own bodies in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy, we in the U.S. media describe that as they are ‘radicalizing’ these people, particularly when they’re radicalizing young people,” Reid said.
“That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act,” she continued. “When you see what Donald Trump is doing, is that any different from what we describe as radicalizing people?”
The remarks initially drew little attention. Her comments, however, ignited intense criticism on Tuesday after prominent activists, politicians, and journalists shared a video clip of the segment on social media, calling out Reid for her “appalling” and “dangerous” description of Muslims.
Muslim-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) both demanded that Reid apologize for her “hurtful” remarks, claiming she was guilty of “casual Islamophobia.” Muslim civil rights organizations also called on the network to take action and for Reid to publicly issue an apology.
“This is so unbelievably Islamophobic it’s ridiculous,” board chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oregon Zakir Khan tweeted. “@JoyAnnReid are you planning to apologize? Way to stereotype an entire group of Muslims. Shame on you.”
But Reid did not address the firestorm on her Tuesday night program, instead waiting until after her show aired to note on Twitter that there’s been “some thoughtful commentary but also some willful distortion of the points I tried to make,” adding that she would “discuss more in depth” on her Wednesday night show.
Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group that initially said Reid needed to apologize on air Tuesday night, stated in a Wednesday op-ed that they hoped the liberal host would take a “page out of her own playbook”—referring to her on-air apology over homophobic blog posts—and “apologize for demonizing our community.”
CAIR, meanwhile, said in a public statement that the organization had met with NBC to discuss Reid’s “inaccurate, offensive remarks” and discussed with the network that she “must clearly apologize.”
The group expressed dissatisfaction with Reid's non-apology on Wednesday night, tweeting that her refusal to apologize “was telling & disappointing.” CAIR also noted that while the in-depth discussion on Islamophobia with help from Mogahed "was welcome," Reid must “first own” her own mistakes.
Reid, meanwhile, also had her defenders, specifically Jamali, who claimed the clip “is being used by the extreme left and right to try and paint” the discussion as Islamophobic, adding that nobody thought to ask him, “the Brown guy on the panel,” what he thought.
Her “the way Muslims act” remarks aren’t the first time Reid has been accused of Islamophobic smears. At the same time she was under fire over old anti-gay blog posts—which she initially claimed was the fault of an alleged hacker—inflammatory posts about Muslims were also unearthed.
In one entry written in 2006, Reid suggested Islam was “largely incompatible with Western notions of free speech and expression,” further adding that it couldn’t co-exist with “Western style democracy for all.”