MSNBC weekend host Joy Reid has issued her third—and apparently final—apology for items she wrote on her now-defunct blog back in the Aughts. Reid broadly states: “There are things I deeply regret and am embarrassed by, things I would have said differently and issues where my position has changed.” MSNBC once again issued a statement supporting Reid.
To their credit, other establishment media outlets covering the story have noted these latest from Reid and MSNBC fail to address her prior, widely disbelieved claims that her old blog was hacked and that the matter was under FBI investigation.
That Reid appears to be a liar (to herself at a minimum) should be a serious issue, particularly in journalism, particularly when the president of the United States has made a habit of denouncing “fake news.” There are reports that some MSNBC staffers recognize the problem, although the dissidents apparently lack authority in the matter.
The questions the Reid kerfuffle raises, however, extend beyond ethics in journalism to shed light on the current state of the progressive Left. The prior installments in this story—involving homophobic blog posts—reflected the seamy underbelly of the politics of “alliances.” The Left is remarkably tolerant of bigots, misogynists, and those who celebrate them, so long as that tolerance helps advance the progressive agenda of the current moment.
Joy Reid Is Not an Outlier Among the Left
The latest installment, however, is more of a commentary on how little of what Reid wrote crossed the lines of acceptable progressivism at the time she wrote them. For example, Reid found herself under fire for a 2006 post promoting the notorious 9/11 Truther documentary “Loose Change.” Yet polling during the Aughts consistently showed that somewhere between one-third and one-half of Democrats were open to some form of Trutherism. In 2009, film producer and progressive blogger-activist Jane Hamsher wrote that many progressive leaders shared this view. On this despicable score, Reid does not appear to be some great outlier among the Left.
Reid is also catching flak for a 2007 blog post that contained a Photoshopped image of Sen. John McCain’s head pasted onto the body of the Virginia Tech mass shooter. The post, however, did not seek to tie McCain to that incident. The post’s title was “Baghdad John strikes again” and criticized his comment at a weapons factory that he would follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell and shoot him with the factory’s products (he later walked back the latter claim).
Reid’s point, headed into the 2008 presidential campaign, was to paint the senator as a neocon warmonger and propagandist. Again, this was not an uncommon view among Democrats or the Left at that moment (the degree of sincerity involved may be open to question on a case-by-case basis). She is right to apologize to McCain, but no one can claim Democrats were not generally gearing up to demonize him ahead of the 2008 primary season.
Third, as reported here at The Federalist, in 2005, Reid wrote in favor of a proposal by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then-president of Iran, that the “Zionist regime” of Israel should relocate to Europe. This is absurd, but consider that in 2008, Democrats nominated for president a man who wanted to negotiate with Ahmadinejad without preconditions. As president, Barack Obama cut a terrible deal with Iran that allowed the mullocracy to shower cash on terrorists in return for a promise to marginally slow their nuclear weapons program.
Moreover, the Left has become steadily more anti-Semitic in recent years, and not only in America. The primary agents of anti-Semitic activity on our college campuses are among the anti-Zionist students and faculty of the left-wing boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement. In 2016, delegates to the Democratic National Convention—generally supporters of Bernie Sanders—sought to move the party platform in a more anti-Zionist direction. If anything, activist Democrats are moving in the direction Reid now claims to repudiate.
Joy Reid Is Just Moving the Overton Window
Lastly, Reid was tagged by Fox’s Tucker Carlson for 2005 and 2006 blog posts criticizing illegal immigration and the Democrats’ position on the issue, as well as praising future Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs for his hawkish position. Here, it is true that Democrats like Ted Kennedy backed comprehensive immigration reform in the Aughts.
But the bill Kennedy co-sponsored with McCain was ultimately sunk with key assistance from Democrats backed by labor unions. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ultimately backed the “poison pill” of the Dorgan Amendment as they headed into the 2008 primary season. Yet again, Reid’s position was backed by one of her party’s key constituencies.
During the final years of the Obama administration, Democrats began veering sharply toward the position that immigrants strengthen the country. Nevertheless, Reid’s old position was championed in the 2016 campaign by Sanders, who garnered roughly the same share of Democratic primary voters as Donald Trump did of GOP primary voters.
In short, the latest batch of Reid’s now-controversial writings espoused positions that were at worst hyperbolic versions of positions with considerable support among the Left at the time, some of which continue to have significant support.
Accordingly, absent the dishonesty, the Reid kerfuffle was preordained to end with forgiveness. The modus operandi of the Left is to continue pushing the Overton Window on its issues as far as it can, as fast as it can. More mainstream Democrats and liberals trying to maintain political viability in a given moment often cannot go as far.
For example, in 2008, the Left had to tolerate Obama and Clinton not supporting same-sex marriage. Both were allowed to “evolve,” just as Reid now claims she has. She lied to avoid excommunication, but the Left must be willing to engage in a constant, vaguely Maoist cycle of political re-education and contrition. Modern progressivism is an ouroboros, but the creature cannot consume too much of its own tail at a time, lest it kill itself.