MSNBC’s Joy Reid is standing by her claim that her now-defunct blog was the target of a cyberattack in which homophobic content was added to the site.
A cybersecurity expert working with Reid said in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday that he found evidence five months ago of “suspicious activity” and that the alleged hacking was the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.
Jonathan Nichols, identified as an independent security consultant by a representative of MSNBC, said the posts in question had been “entered with suspicious formatting and time stamps.”
Reid had previously apologized in December for writing homophobic blog posts after Twitter user @Jamie_Maz tweeted screenshots of them. In those posts ― written in 2007 for The Reid Report, a politics blog Reid kept during her years as a morning talk show host in Florida ― she repeatedly accused then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D) of being a closeted gay man.
“As someone who is not a member of the LGBT community, I regret the way I addressed the complex issue of the closet and speculation on a person’s sexual orientation with a mocking tone and sarcasm,” Reid wrote in her statement in December. “It was insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.”
Last week, @Jamie_Maz shared new screenshots that allegedly feature dozens more anti-LGBTQ posts from Reid’s old blog, as Mediaite first reported on Monday. While the blog itself has been shut down for several years, the amateur sleuth allegedly accessed the posts via the Internet Archive, a nonprofit dedicated to building a massive digital library known as the Wayback Machine.
Some of the most damning posts claimed “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing” and that “adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types.”
In response to the new screenshots, Reid issued a statement on Monday denying having authored them and claiming her personal blog had been hacked.
According to her statement:
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.
A representative for Reid’s MSNBC show also told HuffPost on Monday that the alleged hacking was subject to an ongoing federal investigation. When asked to clarify which federal agency was handling the case, the representative responded Wednesday that Reid’s “team brought the matter to the attention of the FBI and we are respectfully letting that process play itself out.”
“By policy, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of investigations,” the FBI told HuffPost in an email Wednesday.
Reid’s attorney, John H. Reichman, said in a statement Wednesday that the FBI confirmed opening an investigation into the matter.
“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,” Reichman said in the statement. “Our own investigation and monitoring of the situation will continue in parallel, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as their investigation proceeds.”
Links to the resurfaced posts stopped working around mid-February, according to @Jamie_Maz and SplinterNews, making it difficult for HuffPost to confirm their legitimacy.
HuffPost also obtained letters sent in December by Reid’s lawyer to Internet Archive and Google, requesting metadata about the blog and information regarding login attempts.
Internet Archive published a blog post on Tuesday stating that Reid’s lawyers approached the group in December to ask about removing archives of Reid’s blog, claiming “fraudulent” posts were “inserted into legitimate content.” Internet Archive denied the request, saying it “found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions.”
“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),” according to Internet Archive’s post on Tuesday.
“At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities,” the statement continued. “We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation. Consequently, and due to Reid’s being a journalist (a very high-profile one, at that) and the journalistic nature of the blog archives, we declined to take down the archives.”
Following Internet Archive’s correspondence with Reid’s lawyers, Reid’s blog implemented a code that prevented the archive from indexing her blog, the organization said in its statement. Internet Archive did not speculate as to who placed the code.
“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),” according to Internet Archive’s statement. “The robots.txt exclusion from the web archive remains automatically in effect due to the presence of the request on the live blog.”
Nichols, Reid’s cybersecurity consultant, said Tuesday that there was “significant evidence” indicating the recently circulated posts were never even on the site ― even after the alleged hacking.
“These instances may be the result of screenshot manipulation with the intent to tarnish Ms. Reid’s character,” Nichols said in his statement. “Oddly, there were no responses in the comments section of the entries, despite the inflammatory nature of the posts. If those posts were real, they would have undoubtedly elicited responses from Ms. Reid’s base.”
Twitter user @Jamie_Maz vehemently denied manipulating the screenshots, aside from adding red lines to some of them to highlight particular statements made in the alleged posts.
“Nothing was doctored or altered or created,” @Jamie_Maz told HuffPost. “What you see is what I saw on the Wayback Machine site.”
The LGBTQ advocacy organization PFLAG announced Tuesday that it was rescinding its Straight for Equality in Media award to Reid in light of the “ongoing investigation” into her blog posts.
“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, PFLAG’s national 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.”
This article has been updated throughout.