Pressure on MSNBC and its star host Joy Reid grew on Thursday, as embarrassing posts from her old blog-on which she has expressed anti-gay views and promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories-continued to surface.
All the while, Reid has remained on the air, weighing in on topics like Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet and the cancellation of her ABC sitcom.
“This is not new,” Reid said on MSNBC Tuesday about the type of racism in Barr’s tweet. “If you’re able to think of people as somehow less a person than me, it makes it a lot easier to then take that next step and say this person shouldn’t be in this space.”
Conservatives have pounced on the irony of Reid commentating on offensive online comments, and attacked MSNBC for allowing to her remain on the air.
On Tuesday, Fox News ran a headline, “Tone-deaf MSNBC slammed for bringing on Joy Reid to discuss Roseanne Barr’s social media slur.”
Wednesday night, Fox host Tucker Carlson aired a segment highlighting decade-old posts in which Reid expressed views on immigration that sounded straight from the “America First” playbook, including that “flying the Mexican flag on U.S. soil strikes me as incredibly presumptuous and insulting to the US.”
Carlson crowed, “It’s possible that Reid will claim those posts were written by a mysterious hacker, she’s claimed that before, the last time she got caught with embarrassing blog posts. Maybe she’ll blame the entire thing on Vladimir Putin himself or some nameless Macedonian agent.”
And on Thursday, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty tweeted, “Roseanne’s gotta go, but MSNBC host Joy Reid gets a pass for homophobia AND 9/11 Trutherism? Man, being a liberal provides more protective armor than an Iron Man suit.”
The pressure on Reid ramped up this week on Wednesday, when BuzzFeed surfaced old blog posts in which she promoted conspiracy theories suggesting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job. Carlson brought her immigration posts to light that evening, and then, on Thursday, Buzzfeed found another post in which Reid appeared to photoshop John McCain’s head on the body of the Virginia Tech shooter. All of this comes a month after Reid claimed that hackers had infiltrated her now defunct blog to insert anti-gay posts.
On Thursday, MSNBC continued to refuse to comment on the host’s situation, as it has since she made her initial hacking claims in April.
Reid hosts a two-hour show on MSNBC on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but offers commentary throughout the week. On Tuesday, she co-hosted a high-profile townhall on race on the network. Valerie Jarrett was slated to appear at the townhall-where she made her first comments on Barr’s racist tweet about her-and Reid’s prominent role seemed another signal that MSNBC is standing behind her.
What started as an issue over views held a decade ago has morphed, in many ways, into one of trustworthiness. It has been more than a month since Reid claimed that she was hacked and neither she nor MSNBC have produced any evidence supporting the allegations. Reid has admitted on air that the cybersecurity experts she hired to look into the matter have been unable to turn up any proof.
It is common for organizations to stay mum while they conduct internal investigations, said Kathleen Culver, the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. While MSNBC has previously cited ongoing law enforcement investigations as a reason for its silence, the network has not disclosed whether it is doing its own investigation into Reid.
“Now with a new round of concerns being raised, it’s going to be important for them to let people know what they are doing, if they do stand behind her, if they are considering these old posts in some way,” Culver said. “In the absence of some kind of statement, I think people assume that it means everything is fine and there is no concern about these issues. People tend to plug an information vacuum with their own ideas.”
Reid’s troubles with her old blog actually began late last year, when Twitter user @Jamie_Maz and Mediaite surfaced that, in posts from 2007-2009, she had mockingly speculated about the sexuality of then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, referring to him as “Miss Charlie.” Reid apologized for those comments.
“This note is my apology to all who are disappointed by the content of blogs I wrote a decade ago, for which my choice of words and tone have legitimately been criticized,” Reid said at the time.
But in April, when @Jamie_Maz and Mediaite surfaced more anti-gay posts from the mid-to-late 2000s, Reid claimed that her blog had been hacked, and the offending language inserted by somebody out to get her.
The alleged blog posts criticized gay marriage and claimed that homosexual men prey on “impressionable teens”-messages in conflict with Reid’s status as a liberal stalwart. The posts also targeted Rachel Maddow, now MSNBC’s star prime-time host, for having views on gay rights “at the left-most end of the political spectrum.”
“Most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing,” one of the posts reads. “The nature of political correctness is that gay people are allowed to say straight sex is gross but the reverse is considered to be patently homophobic.”
Reid’s blog is no longer online, so her posts had been surfaced through the Internet Archive. In response to Reid’s claim of hacking, in April, the Internet Archive disputed that its record had been compromised. It is unclear how Reid’s posts could otherwise have been altered, and her claims have been cast in doubt by many.
In April, an MSNBC spokesperson told POLITICO that Reid had referred the matter to law enforcement and that the network would let that process play out before taking any action. The network declined to address the actual issue, though, and instead merely passed along statements from Reid’s lawyer.
Culver said that she does not have strong journalistic concerns over Reid remaining on the air, but added that MSNBC should be concerned with what message it is sending.
“I would be more concerned about leaving her on the air if it were more directly connected to the news that she was delivering,” Culver said, “but I do think they run the risk of looking like they’re giving her a free pass. They do have to be concerned about how this appears.”
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