Joy Reid at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 20 in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Media critic

After some initial sluggishness, the national media is digging into claims by MSNBC host Joy Reid — who helms “AM Joy” on weekend mornings — that objectionable comments on decade-old blog posts are the result of hacking. On Tuesday night, MSNBC released documents, including a statement by security analyst Jonathan Nichols, advancing the case that various homophobic remarks stemmed from intrusions into her now-shuttered blog, the Reid Report, and “screenshot manipulation.”

Reid and company have referred the alleged hacking to law enforcement. And that’s the thread that MSNBC is grasping for its official position on the matter. “The matter has been brought to the attention of law enforcement and we’re letting that process play itself out,” notes a company source.

That’s not good enough, for a number of reasons.

  1. Law enforcement — Nichols has told the Erik Wemple Blog that the FBI is aware of the allegations — may well not have the resources* to check into whether an MSNBC host’s ancient blog was compromised. “I really hope the FBI has better things to do,” says Michael Nelson, a computer scientist at Old Dominion University. And if it doesn’t, where does that leave the cable news channel?
  2. A free-labor community of Twitter users and techies is right now moving through the publicly available forensics to great effect. Their findings cast doubt on the plausibility of Reid’s story. “The evidence is not with Joy Reid,” notes the headline of Alexis Madrigal’s piece on the Atlantic.
  3. Reid and company have written code into the old blogging site to block its full archiving on Archive.org, home to the Internet Wayback Machine. Should MSNBC take a more active role in the matter, it could direct Reid to change the code so that those archives reappear. With such a presentation, says Nelson, a more thorough forensic probe would be possible.

MSNBC and NBC News have the resources to do more than sit on the sidelines of a possible criminal investigation. Time to sit down with the links, the tweets, the screenshots, the archives and the rest of the evidence.

*UPDATE: John H. Reichman, a lawyer representing Reid, has issued this statement regarding the FBI:

“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. Our own investigation and monitoring of the situation will continue in parallel, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as their investigation proceeds.”