The Daily Beast has suspended Joy-Ann Reid's column following allegations that the prominent political commentator made homophobic remarks on her now-defunct blog a decade ago. Reid, who claims the offensive content is the work of hackers, will remain on air as a host of MSNBC's weekend morning program "AM Joy."
Noah Shachtman, executive editor of The Daily Beast, sent a memo to the outlet's staff Wednesday announcing the decision. "We’re going to hit pause on Reid’s columns," the memo said. The news was first reported by CNN's Oliver Darcy.
"As you’re well aware, support for LGBTQ rights and respect for human dignity are core to The Daily Beast. So we’re taking seriously the new allegations that one of our columnists, Joy Reid, previously wrote homophobic blog posts during her stint as a radio host," Schactman added, announcing that the outlet's cybersecurity reporter Kevin Poulsen and media reporter Max Tani would both investigate the allegations that Reid's website had been "compromised" and report on their findings.
"Obviously, this is a difficult situation," Shachtman said. "We’ve all said and done things in our lives that we wish we hadn’t done. We deserve the room to grow beyond our past. But these allegations are serious enough that they deserve a full examination."
Blog posts were unearthed late last year where Reid used anti-gay language to mock former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Reid owned up to and apologized for her self-described “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb” remarks. But the latest alleged comments surfaced by Twitter user @Jamie_Maz last week are far more serious.
One post reads, "Couldn’t go see [Brokeback Mountain] either, despite my sister’s ringing endorsement, because I didn’t want to watch the two male characters having sex. Does that make me homophobic? Probably." Another reenforces one of the most harmful stereotypes about gay men: "And then there are the concerns that adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types, bringing them ‘into the lifestyle’ in a way that many people consider to be immoral." Others attack Reid's openly lesbian MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow and offer a critical view of gay marriage.
Meanwhile, a NBC spokesperson told Politico that the network would wait for law enforcement to make a determination on the validity of the blog posts. The source did not say whether NBC will conduct its own investigation similar to The Daily Beast. (MSNBC did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Salon regarding the controversy surrounding Reid prior to the publication of this article.)
Politico added, "On Tuesday night, network representatives forwarded a statement from a 'cyber-security expert' hired by Reid, supporting her claim that the posts on her former blog, The Reid Report, were the work of hackers. The representatives also included letters her lawyers sent to Google and the Internet Archive in December, asking them to wipe the offending posts."
Reid claims that these posts, dating between 2005-2009, were not written by her and that "The Reid Report" was "manipulated." Reid's lawyer John H. Reichman sent a statement to TheWrap identifying dual investigations.
"We have received confirmation the FBI has opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid," he said. "Our own investigation and monitoring of the situation will continue in parallel, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as their investigation proceeds."
Reid also sent her own statement about the matter to Meditate:
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.
The posts were discovered through Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, and the website disputed Reid's claims Tuesday. "When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions," the Internet Archive post said. "We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation."
Reid's cybersecurity expert Jonathan Nichols provided a statement Tuesday night to Politico. "We discovered that login information used to access the blog was available on the Dark Web and that fraudulent entries — featuring offensive statements — were entered with suspicious formatting and time stamps," he said. "The posts included hate speech targeting marginalized communities, and Ms. Reid has been explicit in condemning them."
Investigations remain ongoing on multiple fronts as to whether Reid is, in fact, the author behind the offensive posts. But LGBT advocacy group PFLAG National has already rescinded Reid’s Straight for Equality in Media award.
"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," Jean Hodges, the group's president, 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."