comScore The Joy Reid Saga Tells Us What's Acceptable in the Media

The Joy Reid Saga Tells Us What’s Acceptable in the Media

joy reid

This piece originally appeared in the Fourth Watch newsletter.

“Enter the Republican conspiracy senator from Wisconsin, by way of Moscow, Ron Johnson,” said Joy Reid on her 7 p.m. MSNBC show last week. By way of Moscow? I guess Johnson is a puppet of Putin, or something?

This wouldn’t be much of a story if it weren’t the third most outlandish thing Reid said in the last week. Instead, Reid is empowered to say what appears to be more hyperbolic and vitriolic comments, encouraged by her Twitter followers and, apparently, by her bosses at the NBC News-affiliated cable channel.

On Wednesday night’s Reid Out, the host was opining on the decision by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to “open” the state and end the statewide mask mandate. With the chyron “Texas To End All COVID Precautions” (not true, but moving on), Reid had this to say about Texas and Mississippi: “These states, what they have in common, is they have structures which say black and brown lives matter less. All that matters is that Black and brown people get their behinds into the factory and make me my steaks. Make me my stuff. Get there and do my nails. Work. Get back to work now, and do the things that I, the comfortable, affluent, person need. Isn’t that what we’re seeing?”

There’s a lot here to unpack. Reid’s conclusion is that Texas is going to change Covid rules so “Black and brown people” can… “make me my steaks”? It’s confusing, and offensive — and spoken with such a total certainty, which makes it so much worse.

Which brings us to this tweet from Reid, also from Wednesday and also supremely confident, about what “people on the right” think:

Yes, Reid apparently believes that “people on the right” would like to “openly say the n-word,” and that “not being able to be openly racist” is “oppression” to these people. Note — this is not directed at “racists” or “white supremacists.” It’s not even couching this as “some people on the right.” It’s just a blanket, across-the-board comment, according to Reid, that all people on the right think this way. Theoretically, Joy Reid works with “people on the right” — like Nicolle Wallace. But I mean this sincerely — does Joy Reid really know a single Republican?

Reid is empowered to say these sorts of inflammatory (and obviously false) statements with impunity — not from her bosses, but from the collective mob of “cancelers” who, if the positions were reversed, would love to start an advertising boycott of her show or at least try to get her negatively “trending” on Twitter. Instead, those people are her fans.

What makes it so much more ironic in Reid’s case though, is she has been spared by her peers on the left in the past. Reid was forced to apologize for homophobic blog posts, which she at first said were hacked and not written by her (only to later admit she did write them), including comments like “adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types” and “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing.” The blog posts from Reid’s past are eerily similar to the comments from the past week — not the content, but the total unwavering self-confidence, bordering on narcissism. How the hell does she know what “most straight people” do?

It’s not just Reid’s old blogs either. Last year she was criticized by Muslim groups for equating “the way Muslims act” to Islamic terrorists. More stereotyping, painting with the broadest brush possible, a total lack of intellectual precision. She addressed it in a later show, in what The Washington Post described as a “super-bizarro, non-apology.”

Reid clearly operates under a different set of cultural “rules” than most in the media. Why? It’s clear her targets are much more “acceptable” in our current cultural climate to be denigrated than others who end up being the target of incendiary rhetoric.

Whatever the reason, I want to be clear — I’m glad there are not calls for Reid to be fired. The response to her comments should be conversation, not punishment by her bosses. If MSNBC likes what she’s bringing to the table — on-air and on Twitter — then they should keep it going, as long as they’re prepared for the criticism that may come. (I reached out to MSNBC for comment, they did not respond.) But we can’t pretend there’s not a massive double standard in the media — one that Joy Reid’s week perfectly exemplifies.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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