MSNBC’s Joy Reid Addresses Debate Over Muslim Comments, But Critics Remain

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Courtesy of MSNBC

One of the advocacy organizations calling for MSNBC anchor Joy Reid to apologize for comments she made about Muslims in her broadcast earlier this week said it was disappointed by the host’s handling of the situation, leaving open a controversy in Reid’s early tenure on the cable-news outlet’s weekday schedule.

On Monday, Reid compared President Trump’s recent rhetoric around protesting to the efforts of radical Muslims to galvanize extremism. “When leaders, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence, including on their own bodies, in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy, we in the U.S. media describe that as, they are radicalizing those people, particularly when they’re radicalizing young people,” said Reid. “That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act.”

Her failure to ascribe those efforts as belonging to extremists has brought criticism. Though she acknowledged last night that her comments were  “not exactly the most artful way of asking that question,” she did not apologize outright,  which the Council on Islamic-American Relations on Thursday characterized as ”telling and disappointing” in a comment posted via Twitter. “Don’t deflect. Don’t distract. Just do the right thing,” the advocacy group said.

MSNBC no doubt hoped it was getting out of the early-evening controversy business when it announced earlier this summer that it would move Reid, a popular weekend host, into a slot held for years by Chris Matthews. That veteran anchor had come under intensifying scrutiny in his last weeks at the NBCUniversal-owned cable-news outlet thanks to a series of on-air gaffes that antagonized, among others, the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. Matthews had also been accused of troubling behavior toward female guests on air and behind the scenes at his program, “Hardball.”

Now Reid is spurring similar discontent. On last night’s broadcast, she put a spotlight on the growing debate about her comments by devoting the final 20 minutes of her program, “The ReidOut,” to the matter, acknowledging to guests that she should have been more thoughtful in how she described things. “If Trump was a Muslim leader, not the leader of the Christian right, how would we in the media describe what he’s doing? I asked that question on Monday, and there was a lot of conversation, particularly online, after the segment aired, some of which was, frankly, not in good faith,” said Reid. “But some of the conversation reflected the genuine feelings of people who have been subjected to the kind of stereotyping that I just described, and who take matters like this to heart because of it. And we should all be sensitive to that. And I certainly should have been sensitive to that.”

The reaction by Muslim advocacy organizations has been heated enough that MSNBC executives met with CAIR officials in recent days, according to a spokesman for the group. An MSNBC spokesperson confirmed the sides had met. Neither offered details of what was discussed.

The contretemps has revived chatter about some of Reid’s past actions while at MSNBC.  In 2018, some of her posts on an old blog she managed earlier in her career surfaced anew. Some of them contained homophobic remarks, and another one contained a photoshopped image of former Senator John McCain depicted as the instigator of a mass-shooting incident. Reid has apologized several times for the controversial comments, but also maintained she did not recall writing them and even suggested that the old web pages had been manipulated by hackers  – a claim that remains unproven.

Reid’s new program has been a boon to MSNBC since it launched in mid-July. The program in August garnered the highest total viewership for the 7 p.m. hour in the network’s history, according to Nielsen figures: an average of 2 million viewers. Even so, the program’s main competitor, CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront,” had a larger audience among viewers between 25 and 54 – the viewership most coveted by advertisers in news programming. Both were trumped in both ratings categories by Fox News Channel’s “The Story,” anchored by Martha MacCallum.