The Media Today

MSNBC’s Joy Reid problem isn’t going away

June 1, 2018

MSNBC is having a banner year. The network’s liberal opinion hosts have found a booming audience among consumers looking for programming consistently critical of President Trump, and its hard news shows have shown solid growth. May ratings results saw MSNBC solidify its position as one of cable’s most-watched channels. But recent reports about disturbing posts on the former blog of one of its hosts have cast a shadow over that success.

Pressure on the network and host Joy Reid continued to build Thursday, as BuzzFeed News unearthed a blog post on Reid’s now–defunct site in which she published a photoshopped image of John McCain as the Virginia Tech shooter. This came a day after the same BuzzFeed reporters, Joseph Bernstein and Charlie Warzel, discovered that Reid had encouraged readers to watch an infamous 9/11 conspiracy documentary in a 2006 post. Throughout the recent developments, MSNBC has remained silent.

“The reason these stories continue to be of interest is MSNBC and Joy Reid won’t address them—so we don’t know if they would attribute them to a hacker or not,” BuzzFeed’s Bernstein tweeted Thursday. “Transparency is typically a good thing in our field.”

TRENDING: Do we need J-schools?

Questions over Reid’s views first surfaced late last year, when she quickly apologized for decade-old homophobic posts. Her current issues really began in April, when Twitter user @Jamie_Maz identified additional homophobic posts on her old blog. This time, instead of apologizing, Reid told Mediaite she had been hacked. Lacking evidence to support her claim, she eventually issued a tempered apology, saying on her AM Joy program, “I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things, because they are completely alien to me. But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me.”

Throughout all of this, Reid has continued to appear prominently on MSNBC programming. On Tuesday evening, she hosted a town hall on race at which Valerie Jarrett appeared hours after being the subject of racist tweets by Roseanne Barr. Reid hasn’t offered a response to the recent reports from BuzzFeed, and after directing questions about her hacking claims to Reid’s personal attorney, MSNBC has been silent in the face of this week’s reports. In a thorough piece on the whole saga, Politico’s Jason Schwartz gets to the heart of the matter: “What started as an issue over views held a decade ago has morphed, in many ways, into one of trustworthiness.

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Below, more on the controversy surrounding Reid and her network.

  • What’s next?: The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi connects Reid’s past online comments with this week’s Roseanne saga, writing, “the new reports seem likely to raise additional pressure on NBC News to fire her, especially in the wake of ABC firing sitcom star Roseanne Barr for anti-Semitic and racist tweets. Conservatives have been particularly eager to condemn Reid, who has espoused liberal and progressive opinions on her program.”
  • Tone-deaf?: Fox News’s Brian Flood wasn’t the only one to point out the incongruity of MSNBC putting Reid on-air to offer commentary about Roseanne’s hateful online comments.
  • Hacking claims don’t hold up: Last month, The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen systematically dismantled claims by Reid and an investigator she hired that her blog had been hacked by someone out to discredit her.


Other notable stories

  • In our new print issue, three smart writers debate the case for journalism school. Bill Grueskin writes in support of the institution, Felix Salmon says it should be abolished, and Alexandria Neason argues that it’s probably worth it—if you don’t have to go deep into debt to pay the tuition.
  • For Crooked Media, Republican strategist Tim Miller describes “the media’s undeniable pro-Trump bias.” Turning a claim by Trump supporters on its head, Miller writes: “Trump is employing a strategy that might be familiar to coaches of inferior middle school basketball teams: Foul your opponents on every play, because, by human nature, referees are not equipped to blow the whistle on every play for fear of seeming biased. They are going to let some plays go by. In politics, journalists are the referees. And because they give Trump a pass on so many of his fouls, he avoids scrutiny that politicians who play by the rules would be subjected to regardless of ideology.”
  • NPR released the audio of a 2015 interview conducted by Tim Mak with Trump confidant Michael Cohen. Mak, then working for The Daily Beast, remains impressively composed as Cohen profanely threatens him with legal ruin if Mak runs a story on Donald Trump. It’s a striking window into the behavior of the man near the center of recent developments in the Robert Mueller investigation.
  • I wrote about the reasons press freedom groups have expressed concerns with the manner in which Ukraine’s security service faked dissident Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko’s death. On the same topic for The New York Times, Julia Ioffe writes, “Before Wednesday, it was easy to deride Kremlin cries of [false-flag operations] as a cynical way of directing our gaze away from the facts and past them — onto the highly improbable and the flat-out conspiratorial. But after Wednesday, thanks to the machinations of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, dismissing such claims became far more difficult. This time, the Russians turned out to be right.”
  • NiemanLab’s Ken Doctor examines Tronc’s shapeshifting business plan. “Tronc is getting smaller. Tronc is getting bigger. And some say Tronc may not be Tronc all that much longer,” Doctor writes. He also checks in on the LA Times, where new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is planning changes once his purchase of the paper finally closes.
  • The New York Times Editorial Board is calling for the release of Joe Bryan, a former high school principal in Texas who was convicted of murdering his wife in 1985. Bryan’s case was the subject of a two-part Pamela Colloff series published by the Times Magazine and ProPublica over the past week.
  • Following up on yesterday’s newsletter topic: CNN’s Harry Enten writes that “the lack of attention to Maria is no doubt because many Americans don’t see Puerto Ricans as citizens of their country.”

ICYMI: Puerto Rico’s devastation takes a backseat to Roseanne coverage

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.