Critics, experts cite serious doubts about MSNBC star Joy Reid’s claim that hackers planted homophobic slurs on her blog

MSNBC star Joy Reid raised eyebrows on Monday when she claimed that hackers planted homophobic slurs on her old website to tarnish her name. While the story has gone largely uncovered by mainstream media, Reid’s critics have questioned her explanation.

Reid apologized last year when homophobic comments she made prior to landing a gig at MSNBC were unearthed by a Twitter user and reported by Mediaite. But on Monday, Mediaite reported that Reid blamed “an unknown, external party” for a newly uncovered batch of anti-gay comments that popped up on archived images of her old blog.

Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma also explained Reid’s archives on the Wayback Machine, an Internet archiving service, “mysteriously disappeared” in December after her initial homophobic rhetoric was exposed. The service says Reid wanted the archives removed and her lawyer contacted the site last December.

The Wayback Machine posted a blog entry on Tuesday, denying that tampering or hacking of Reid’s site happened on the archived version. The company also says it denied a request from Reid’s attorney to remove her archives because her claim that the site included fraudulent content was “not sufficient” enough to “verify claims of manipulation.” However, someone figured out a way to remove the archives on Reid’s behalf by adding a “robots.txt exclusion” to her site, the company explained.

“Reid’s claim regarding the point of manipulation is still unclear to us,” The Wayback Machine wrote.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out that Reid’s claim is a “bizarre” story that liberal outlets are ignoring. He provided several verified comments written by Reid that “square quite consistently with the newly discovered” writing that she denies.

"Reid’s claim regarding the point of manipulation is still unclear to us."

— The Wayback Machine

“Mocking people on gender grounds, referring to men she suspects are gay as ‘Miss,’ or implying they are trans for the sake of mockery, is a longtime Reid tactic,” Greenwald wrote.

Greenwald said NBC sent out an undated document from a so-called “independent security consultant.” The document claimed Reid's blog was indeed “compromised” with “fraudulent entries.”

Webster University Cybersecurity Program Lead Paul Frazier told Fox News that Reid’s story is “technically” possible but could easily be verified.

“To prove that they were not her remarks will require her to hire a certified cyber forensics expert who has the capability -- physically and legally -- to seize the file server hosting her blog and then run a series of forensics programs to determine what computer the posted comments were made from,” Frazier explained. “Not too difficult of a task as long as you have the training, the tools and the legal access to the server.”

MSNBC did not immediately respond when asked if Reid will hire a cyber forensics expert.

Frazier said that until someone does this forensic look, people will simply have to take Reid’s word. Unfortunately for the MSNBC star, a lot of people seem to be skeptical of her story.

Critics want Joy Reid to prove her claim that hackers planted homophobic rhetoric on her blog.

Critics want Joy Reid to prove her claim that hackers planted homophobic rhetoric on her blog. (2015 Ron Adar)

Columbia University computer science professor Steven Bellovin told Fox News that “it's impossible to render any opinion on whether or not the claim is plausible or not” without technical details that Reid has not provided.

“She needs to provide proof beyond a statement that these slurs were fabricated and added without her permission or the questions will only continue to grow."

— NewsBusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck

“She needs to provide proof beyond a statement that these slurs were fabricated and added without her permission or the questions will only continue to grow,” NewsBusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck told Fox News.

Greenwald followed up his story by tweeting that Reid’s “claim that these newly discovered, horribly bigoted posts are fake needs to be verified.”

Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold doesn’t buy Reid’s story, either, and took a series of jabs on Twitter.

“Oddly, NBC seems to be insisting that the photographs circulating are photoshops, while Reid seems to be saying they were actually hosted on her site, but she was hacked,” Greenwald wrote. “Gotta keep the stories straight, guys!”

BuzzFeed’s Joe Bernstein tweeted, “Reid should probably produce evidence from her ‘Cybersecurity expert’ that hackers broke into the Wayback Machine to frame her as homophobic, as she claims.”

“This is a very strange story which gives me flashbacks to Anthony Weiner claiming he’d been hacked,” Hot Air’s John Sexton wrote before asking a series of questions. “Why didn’t she realize the problem before she apologized last year? Why didn’t she mention that she believed the site had been hacked until this new, unflattering material was revealed?”

It’s not only members of the media that have questioned Reid’s story, but a quick search of her name on Twitter reveals that regular folks are skeptical, too.

“Unfortunate that people won’t see this for the blatant lie it is,” one user speculated while another wrote, “No one believes she was hacked! So ridiculous!”

Reid also told Mediaite that she has “notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach,” but MSNBC did not respond when asked which authorities were notified.

The Justice Department has a longstanding rule not to confirm or deny the existence of any investigations. When reached for comment, the Justice Department referred Fox News to the office of the Southern District of New York, which declined comment.

Greenwald has a theory on why most of Reid’s critics are from conservative-leaning news organizations, while mainstream outlets including CNN and The New York Times haven’t touched it.

“The reason liberal news sites are ignoring the story is as self-evident as it is troubling: because Reid’s ideology is in accordance with theirs, and they therefore don’t care if she’s lying or telling the truth when denying authorship of these bigoted articles, nor do they care about the anti-LGBT bigotry itself,” Greenwald wrote.

MSNBC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Daily Beast, where Reid is a contributor, did not immediately respond.