One of the more bizarre stories in recent memory got even stranger Wednesday when the cyber expert hired to defend MSNBC star Joy Reid was reported to possibly be a neo-Nazi sympathizer.
MSNBC has been stone silent since Mediaite reported this week that the “AM Joy” host blamed “an unknown, external party” for a newly uncovered batch of anti-gay comments that popped up on archived images of her old blog from 2003 through 2007.
Reid apologized last year when other homophobic comments made on the "Reid Report," her blog pre-dating her MSNBC fame, were first unearthed by a Twitter user and reported by Mediaite. Since Reid had already admitted to and apologized for making homophobic slurs, it raised eyebrows across the media industry when she blamed a hacker for the latest uncovered batch of derogatory comments.
While NBC has yet to publicly acknowledge the scandal, the network reportedly distributed to friendly reporters an “undated, extremely vague” report from Reid’s independent security consultant, Jonathan Nichols.
Nichols’ statement claimed he found evidence that Reid’s blog was breached using information available on the “Dark Web” and blamed other homophobic rhetoric on “screenshot manipulation.”
Mediaite’s Caleb Ecarma, who broke the story, dug into Nichols’ background and reported he found that he once bragged about knowing famed white supremacist Andrew “weev” Auernheimer and “the leadership” of the Nazi site Stormfront.
“The self-declared ‘Current Cyber Guy, Former PSYOP guy’ goes by the handle @wvualphasoldier on Twitter, where he posts a stream of self-serious, bizarre ramblings,” Ecarma wrote of Nichols, who deleted his old tweets once NBC distributed his statement.
Once Mediaite’s story was published, Nichols denied sympathizing with Auernheimer in a new batch of tweets.
Ecarma said he used internet archiving services to see what Reid’s defender might be trying to hide and discovered a series of tweets sympathizing with neo-Nazis.
“Like are most of you aware that I NOT ONLY know Andrew (stromfront admin), but I was the principal element livetweeting his release from [prison],” tweeted Nichols on December 9, 2017, according to Mediaite. “If you try REALLY HARD you’ll see that I’m connected to the leadership of [Stormfront]. If you try just a bit harder you’ll figure it out.”
Nichols also reportedly tweeted, “I was at Weev's coming home party.”
Ecarma pointed out that Weev, the hacker nickname for Andrew Auernheimer, actually works for The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist hub that is strongly anti-Jew and home to neo-Nazi rants.
“In his tweets, Nichols appears to have confused the two racist sites,” Ecarma wrote.
Gawker published a detailed report published in 2014 on how Weev became a white supremacist that included quotes from a blog he wrote for The Daily Stormer.
“I've been a long-time critic of Judaism, black culture, immigration to Western nations, and the media's constant stream of anti-white propaganda,” Weev wrote before Gawker’s Sam Biddle added, “What separates Weev from all the eager internet bigots who commented on his Daily Stormer post is that he's a minor celebrity in the online security world.”
Itt would be logical to assume Nichols, who bills himself as an independent security consultant, would be aware that a “minor celebrity” in the online security world had such open ties to hate groups, racism and bigotry.
“And yet, just five months ago, Reid’s security expert bragged about personally knowing the hacker,” Ecarma wrote.
Meanwhile, Nichols' statement regarding Reid was quickly torn apart by media watchdogs and cyber experts. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald tweeted evidence that both NBC and Reid’s security consultant have ignored requests for evidence that the hacking claim is legitimate.
The statement that was reportedly circulated by NBC attempts to cover all the bases and even claims that Reid’s old blog was compromised and that some of the homophobic slurs being pinned on the MSNBC star were the result of “screenshot manipulation.”
The statement directly contradicts reporting from Mediaite that said Reid admitted the posts in question came from her blog, as opposed to doctored images posted to Twitter.
Nichols’ Twitter account features several other bizarre comments, including tweets commenting on the fact that he is working with the MSNBC star. He took to Twitter to defend himself, claiming that he live tweeted Weev’s release from prison but finds his current views “abhorrent.”
“I was not aware of any connections to his current bigoted views at that time,” Nichols wrote. “I find his current views abhorrent. I was at his coming home party in support of his legal position, well previous to any indication that he was a jerk.”
MSNBC did not respond to multiple requests for comment.