On Homophobia, Hyper-Partisanship and "Hacking": A Joy Reid Explainer

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On Homophobia, Hyper-Partisanship and "Hacking": A Joy Reid Explainer

We are in an exceptionally stupid news cycle thanks to Donald Trump and Kanye West, which means that a bizarre ordeal with one of the left’s most beloved media personalities has largely flown under the radar. Here’s what you need to know about Joy Reid, host of AMJoy on MSNBC, and her homophobic blog posts that she both admitted to and then denied writing.

What Happened Back Then?

Towards the end of last year, Twitter user Jamie_Maz unearthed a trove of homophobic posts from the MSNBC host’s old blog, The Reid Report.

Reid apologized for her “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb” comments soon afterwards, writing:

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.

Among the frequent subjects of my posts was then-governor Charlie Crist, at the time a conservative Republican, whose positions on issues like gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in Florida shared headlines with widely rumored reports that he was hiding his sexual orientation.

At no time have I intentionally sought to demean or harm the LGBT community, which includes people whom I deeply love. My goal, in my ham-handed way, was to call out potential hypocrisy.

With that, the controversy went away. Reid expressed legitimate contrition over her hurtful words, and everyone moved on. People change, and they shouldn't be shunned for expressing opinions in the past that they now acknowledge were “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.” The reason this is still in the news? Reid found herself in the same situation again recently, but instead fired off a defense that doesn't pass the sniff test.

What Happened Now?

Jamie_Maz came back this week with more receipts from Reid's old blog. The Reid Report is no longer online, but you can access all of its posts via the Wayback Machine. If you're unfamiliar with the famed internet archive, I'll let Joy Reid sarcastically explain what it does.

joyreidwaybacktweet.png

The old blog posts unearthed by Jamie_Maz are way worse than before, and contradict some of Reid's defense that this was about combatting GOP politics.

Instead of pointing to her previous apology for her “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb” posts, Reid impugned the very core of the Wayback Machine's existence, and claimed that it had been hacked. Here's what she told Mediaite:

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.

This incredibly serious charge prompted a response from the Internet Archive:

This past December, Reid's lawyers contacted us, asking to have archives of the blog (blog.reidreport.com) taken down, stating that “fraudulent” posts were “inserted into legitimate content” in our archives of the blog. Her attorneys stated that they didn't know if the alleged insertion happened on the original site or with our archives (the point at which the manipulation is to have occurred, according to Reid, is still unclear to us).

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.

They also said that the post had been removed.

At some point after our correspondence, a robots.txt exclusion request specific to the Wayback Machine was placed on the live blog. That request was automatically recognized and processed by the Wayback Machine and the blog archives were excluded, unbeknownst to us (the process is fully automated). The robots.txt exclusion from the web archive remains automatically in effect due to the presence of the request on the live blog. Also, the blog URL which previously pointed to an msnbc.com page now points to a generic parked page.

Even if Reid was right (more on that in a second), that wouldn't explain these other insensitive tweets that are still up on her Twitter account.

The Response

After getting called out by the Wayback Machine, Reid's lawyer announced that the FBI is investigating her claim. On top of this, a whole host of allies spoke up to defend Reid in what looked like a scripted circling of the wagons, despite the fact that she had previously admitted to writing the posts.

Ah yes, those famed trolls and MAGAbots, *checks notes,* LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, are joining in on the right-wing attack by rescinding the award they gave to Reid. The craziest defense came from MSNBC turned CNN pundit, Joan Walsh, as she did her best Fat Tony impersonation to The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald.

It was all so coordinated and hysteric that it almost seems like a call to action went out to centrist liberal Twitter. That said, not everyone who rushed to her defense was aware of the new developments. Deputy Director of the Center for American Progress, Igor Volsky, did a 180 upon learning the full story.

So What The Hell Actually Happened?

We don’t really know for certain, but we can whittle it down to three options:

1. Joy Reid did get hacked.

2. She didn’t and therefore she lied to the FBI.

3. The charge that an FBI investigation was launched is BS, meaning Joy Reid lied, just not to the FBI.

So let’s investigate why we should believe Joy Reid. First and foremost, her defense makes no sense, and getting hacked is actually one of the simplest explanations for what happened. She apologized the first time this issue was brought up, and if she had replied to the newest evidence with something like “these are part of the dumb and insensitive posts I said I was sorry for back in December,” I wouldn’t be writing this explainer right now.

It’s precisely because Joy Reid fought back (while accusing the Internet Archive of failing at their core duty) that this is a big story now. Given the ledge she put herself on, she better be right, as MSNBC is not backing up her hacking claim, and has resorted to simply forwarding statements from her lawyer. Frankly, it’s hard to see how she’s right that she was hacked, given that the Library of Congress also archives the internet, and they let CNN review their records, showing the same posts unearthed through the Wayback Machine by Jaime_Maz. For Joy Reid to credibly claim that she was hacked, both the Internet Archive and the Library of Congress would need to be compromised, and both are denying that they were.

So what about number two? Why would she apologize in December “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,” then turn around four months later and say “in December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog.” Is the new stuff hacked, while the stuff she apologized for before real? Is she trying to piggyback on the “Russians hack everything” hysteria recently seized upon by #resistance liberals? Both the old and new writings are homophobic, but the only words she apologized for were directed at a Republican. It’s just all so weird, and if she did lie to the FBI about getting hacked—hoo boy—has this saga taken a turn.

It’s pretty easy to see how she thought she could use partisanship to squirrel her way out of this, and now that defense is gone, so she’s essentially pivoting to “the dog ate my homework” (but remember, sometimes dogs do eat homework, which is the only reason why I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt right now). She better be right, or lying about the existence of an FBI investigation, because if she did ask the FBI to open up an probe in order to make it look like her lie has legitimacy, then the world of legal hurt coming her way will make the social media dogpile she presently resides under look like a massage by comparison. Just ask Michael Flynn or George Papadopoulos or Rick Gates how lying to the FBI usually ends.

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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