Cybersecurity Expert Not Buying Reid's 'Hacker' Story


MSNBC host Joy Reid has tried to douse the controversy surrounding homophobic posts that an Internet archive search found on a blog she managed more than a decade ago by claiming hackers had manipulated the blog to insert offensive material.

In a statement Monday to Mediaite, Reid claimed an “unknown, external party” accessed her now-defunct blog and added “offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.” Reid claimed she discovered the hacks after she began working with “a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity.”

But Reid’s claims have been met with skepticism. Cybersecurity expert Jason McNew, who spent 12 years working for the White House and Camp David under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told the Daily Caller it will be difficult for Reid to prove her innocence.

“Her claims are incredulous to say the least. Proving what she’s saying with any certainty would be extremely difficult,” McNew said. “People’s viewpoints have changed a lot [in the last 25 years].”

Reid’s attorneys sent letters in December to the Internet Archive — a nonprofit group that maintains cached versions of webpages — and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, demanding the companies remove archived pages of her blog.

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Among the posts cited by Reid’s attorneys as being bogus are two items that were part of her live blog during coverage of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearing on Jan. 11, 2006. The two posts — made 30 minutes apart — make crude references to homosexual acts between Alito and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Online archives maintained by the Library of Congress and reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation show the allegedly bogus entries were indeed posted on Reid’s blog on those two dates in 2006.

“It sounds like baloney to me,” McNew said of crude posts being the result of hackers. “When data like this is archived, there might be other copies in Google database, or in Bing’s data base, there might be additional copies that would disprove what she’s saying.”

McNew said that for Reid’s claim to be accurate, someone would have to had to have hacked into her blog at the time she was working on it, and then not have the hack be noticed by Reid or anyone else for nearly 12 years.

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“I don’t think in terms of targeting [Reid] the juice doesn’t seem worth the squeeze. Why would you go through such a thing?” said McNew of a motive for hacking Reid’s blog in 2006.

For Reid to prove her case, McNew says her attorneys will have to dig through data that’s more than a decade old to prove the tampering took place.

Thus far, Reid’s expert and her attorneys have not provided evidence of tampering, but have pointed out what they claim are inconsistencies with the newly discovered blog posts and Reid’s writing style, as well as the fact some of her most radical comments generated no feedback from her readers at the time.

The Huffington Post has also cast doubt on Reid’s hacking allegations, saying  in a report Thursday that because the Wayback Machine tool — used by the Twitter user who uncovered the homophobic posts — captures screenshots from the moment they are posted, hackers would have had to insert the questionable material more than a decade ago as well. It also points out that most of Reid’s posts did not generate feedback, so the lack of any in and of itself would be hard to use as proof of a hack.

Meanwhile, fallout continues from the news of the latest blog discoveries.

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Former MSNBC anchor David Shuster posted a tweet Wednesday claiming the network “is considering” firing Reid over the controversy, in part because it doesn’t believe her claims of being hacked.

The Daily Beast announced Wednesday it will stop running Reid’s column on the website until a full investigation into her hacking claims is completed.

“We’re going to hit pause on Reid’s columns,” Noah Shachtman, executive editor of the Daily Beast, said in an in-house email obtained by CNN. “As you’re well aware, support for LGBTQ rights and respect for human dignity are core to 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.”

“Obviously, this is a difficult situation,” Shachtman added. “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.”

On Tuesday, the gay advocacy group PFLAG National announced it was rescinding an invitation for Reid to receive the group’s Straight for Equality in Media award. The MSNBC personality had been scheduled to receive the award next month at a gathering honoring the group’s 45th anniversary.

As for her employer, a spokesperson for NBC told Politico that Reid will remain on MSNBC despite the controversy. The spokesperson said Reid has referred the matter to law enforcement and that the network would wait for that process to play out before taking any action. An attorney for Reid said Wednesday that the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into her claims of being the victim of a hacker.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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