MSNBC stays silent as Joy Reid comes under more scrutiny

Pressure on MSNBC and its star host Joy Reid grew on Thursday, as embarrassing posts from her old blog—on which she has expressed anti-gay views and promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories—continued to surface.

All the while, Reid has remained on the air, weighing in on topics like Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet and the cancellation of her ABC sitcom.

“This is not new,” Reid said on MSNBC Tuesday about the type of racism in Barr’s tweet. “If you’re able to think of people as somehow less a person than me, it makes it a lot easier to then take that next step and say this person shouldn’t be in this space.”

Conservatives have pounced on the irony of Reid commentating on offensive online comments, and attacked MSNBC for allowing to her remain on the air.

On Tuesday, Fox News ran a headline, “Tone-deaf MSNBC slammed for bringing on Joy Reid to discuss Roseanne Barr’s social media slur.”

Wednesday night, Fox host Tucker Carlson aired a segment highlighting decade-old posts in which Reid expressed views on immigration that sounded straight from the “America First” playbook, including that “flying the Mexican flag on U.S. soil strikes me as incredibly presumptuous and insulting to the US.”

Carlson crowed, “It’s possible that Reid will claim those posts were written by a mysterious hacker, she’s claimed that before, the last time she got caught with embarrassing blog posts. Maybe she’ll blame the entire thing on Vladimir Putin himself or some nameless Macedonian agent.”

And on Thursday, the National Review’s Jim Geraghty tweeted, “Roseanne’s gotta go, but MSNBC host Joy Reid gets a pass for homophobia AND 9/11 Trutherism? Man, being a liberal provides more protective armor than an Iron Man suit.”

The pressure on Reid ramped up this week on Wednesday, when BuzzFeed surfaced old blog posts in which she promoted conspiracy theories suggesting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job. Carlson brought her immigration posts to light that evening, and then, on Thursday, Buzzfeed found another post in which Reid appeared to photoshop John McCain’s head on the body of the Virginia Tech shooter. All of this comes a month after Reid claimed that hackers had infiltrated her now defunct blog to insert anti-gay posts.

On Thursday, MSNBC continued to refuse to comment on the host’s situation, as it has since she made her initial hacking claims in April.

Reid hosts a two-hour show on MSNBC on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but offers commentary throughout the week. On Tuesday, she co-hosted a high-profile townhall on race on the network. Valerie Jarrett was slated to appear at the townhall—where she made her first comments on Barr’s racist tweet about her—and Reid’s prominent role seemed another signal that MSNBC is standing behind her.

What started as an issue over views held a decade ago has morphed, in many ways, into one of trustworthiness. It has been more than a month since Reid claimed that she was hacked and neither she nor MSNBC have produced any evidence supporting the allegations. Reid has admitted on air that the cybersecurity experts she hired to look into the matter have been unable to turn up any proof.

It is common for organizations to stay mum while they conduct internal investigations, said Kathleen Culver, the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. While MSNBC has previously cited ongoing law enforcement investigations as a reason for its silence, the network has not disclosed whether it is doing its own investigation into Reid.

“Now with a new round of concerns being raised, it’s going to be important for them to let people know what they are doing, if they do stand behind her, if they are considering these old posts in some way,” Culver said. “In the absence of some kind of statement, I think people assume that it means everything is fine and there is no concern about these issues. People tend to plug an information vacuum with their own ideas.”

Reid’s troubles with her old blog actually began late last year, when Twitter user @Jamie_Maz and Mediaite surfaced that, in posts from 2007-2009, she had mockingly speculated about the sexuality of then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, referring to him as “Miss Charlie.” Reid apologized for those comments.

“This note is my apology to all who are disappointed by the content of blogs I wrote a decade ago, for which my choice of words and tone have legitimately been criticized,” Reid said at the time.

Senate acquits President Johnson, May 26, 1868

After a two-month trial, the Senate acquitted President Andrew Johnson on this day in 1868. Johnson had been impeached by the House three months earlier. When the final crunch came, 35 senators found Johnson guilty and 19 not guilty — just one vote short of the two-thirds majority required to remove him from office.

Johnson, a former Democratic senator from Tennessee who succeeded to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, had been accused by congressional Republicans of violating the Tenure of Office Act.

Ten days earlier, the Senate also failed to convict Johnson, voting by an identical margin — 35-19. In hindsight, that proved to be the key test: The anti-Johnson forces were counting on a guilty vote on the 11th, and last, article of impeachment. It was the first order of business before the Senate and a summary of the other 10 articles. If Johnson had been found guilty in that first vote, he would have been out of office.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Johnson was the sole senator from a seceding state who remained loyal to the Union. He had built his political career on backing the interests of poor white Southerners.

“Damn the Negroes,” he said, explaining his stand. “I am fighting those traitorous aristocrats — their masters.” In return for his loyalty, Lincoln named Johnson military governor of Tennessee in 1862. In 1864, Lincoln placed him on the ticket as his running mate.

As the first post-Civil War president, Johnson pursued a lenient policy toward the vanquished South, offering wide-scale amnesty for former Confederates. Congress, dominated by radical Republicans, repeatedly overrode his vetoes.

In March 1867, seeking to further weaken Johnson’s authority, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act over his veto. It barred the president from removing federal officeholders, including Cabinet members confirmed by the Senate, without the Senate’s prior consent.

In the eight decades since the 1787 framing of the U.S. Constitution, the question had repeatedly arisen, “If the Senate is responsible for confirming appointees, does it also have a role in removing them?” Johnson decided to test the act’s constitutionality by firing Edwin Stanton, the hard-line secretary of war and a favorite of the radical Republicans on Capitol Hill.

In 1887, Congress repealed the Tenure of Office Act.

Still, the issue of the Senate’s role in dismissing executive officers remained cloudy through the half-century after Johnson’s term ended. Finally, in 1926, the Supreme Court resolved the matter. Chief Justice — and former president — William Howard Taft seized on the case of Myers v. United States to settle permanently the president’s constitutional right to fire federal officials.

The ruling proved to be the ultimate vindication for Johnson, and it confirmed the wisdom of that small minority of senators who had prevented the Senate from removing him from the presidency.

Tech scrambles to shape U.S. privacy debate as EU rules loom

The debut of Europe’s sweeping new digital privacy law has some U.S. lawmakers — and a few American tech giants — raising the idea of importing some version of it to the United States.

Facing mounting pressure over its privacy practices, and with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation going into effect Friday, Silicon Valley is scrambling to shape the policy discussion as it seeps across the Atlantic. Microsoft and the big cloud computing company Salesforce have both called for some kind of national privacy regulations, while IBM has talked about adopting voluntary industry standards that could head off government mandates.

Either way, many in the tech world say avoiding the subject is no longer a viable option.

“In the last six to 12 months, it’s become very clear that doing nothing could be the recipe for very onerous and cumbersome regulation,” Chris Padilla, IBM’s vice president for government and regulatory affairs, told POLITICO.

The debate is erupting as the tech industry has faced growing scrutiny in Washington during the past year and a half from both the left and right — over everything from social media’s role in the 2016 election to the exposure of user data in the Cambridge Analytica case to the notion that Silicon Valley may be biased against conservatives. And as lawmakers get practice acting as a check on tech, regulation that once seemed highly unlikely suddenly seems somewhat more plausible.

A bill holding digital platforms more responsible for online sex trafficking, for example, once seemed even to some advocates like a longshot. But President Donald Trump signed it into law in April.

For any U.S. leaders interested in further clamping down on the tech industry, the European Union’s new regulation provides a potential model to follow.

At its core, the complex GDPR strengthens citizens’ right to say how data about them can be used, giving them the power to correct, delete and freely move their information from one service to another. It’s enforceable through fines up to a whopping 4 percent of a company’s global annual revenue — penalties that could amount to billions of dollars for U.S. tech firms found to be violating its requirements.

Facebook, Google and other U.S.-based internet companies have to comply with the rule for their European users, but they have been fuzzy on how they will apply the restrictions in the U.S.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress last month that he supported “in principle” U.S. regulation enshrining the standard, established by GDPR, that users must proactively consent to the use of their data by internet companies. But shortly afterward, Zuckerberg said the American approach to privacy should reflect the United States’ “different sensibilities.“

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has perhaps been the most explicit in his remarks. “[I]t’s time for an American GDPR to protect consumers at home,” he tweeted last week. “This can be the foundation of trust between technology and customers. The European GDPR privacy law means Europeans have ownership and control of their personal data. Now we need one.”

And Microsoft got attention this week for saying that it will “extend the rights that are at the heart of GDPR to all of our consumer customers worldwide.” The software giant said it has long advocated for national privacy regulation, though it stopped sort for calling for the full importation of the European rules.

IBM has gone a different route. Rejecting the idea that GDPR and its top-down approach “should be simply grafted” onto the U.S. system, the company has floated the idea of voluntary industry standards that could win the backing of government and stave off regulation. It’s a similar model to the private-public framework on cybersecurity created after President Barack Obama floated the idea of regulating how private companies address threats to critical digital infrastructure.

Some in the tech industry say they’ve been prompted to action not only by Europe’s moves, but by the erosion of user trust sparked by data scandals at Facebook and Uber, and the possibility of state-level rules like a consumer privacy ballot measure that’s gained traction California.

But also lighting a fire under them to engage publicly, they say, is the fact that even politicians in Washington who have traditionally taken a hands-off approach to the tech industry are beginning to raise the specter of regulation.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told POLITICO in an interview last week that Americans, seeing Europeans’ new privacy protections, are going to start demanding the same.

And on Thursday, Markey and colleagues Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Il.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a Senate resolution “encouraging” companies to voluntarily apply the protections included in GDPR to Americans.

That might be expected talk for those Democrats, many of whom have long pushed for stronger consumer protection laws in the United States. But far more surprising — and concerning — to the tech industry is that it’s starting to see the idea of regulation being raised by free-market Republicans.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), for example, raised eyebrows for saying, when asked about regulating tech at an event this year, “If responsibility doesn’t flow, then regulation will.”

That sentiment was echoed by Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) during last month’s hearing with Zuckerberg over the Cambridge Analytica controversy. Warned Thune: “In the past, many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been willing to defer to tech companies’ efforts to regulate themselves. But this may be changing.”

Those in and around the tech industry describe recent rounds of meetings and calls aimed at figuring out to how navigate the new landscape.

“The overwhelming majority of our companies support the idea of protecting and advancing a fundamental right to privacy,” said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies like Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

That said, he added, “They want to be thoughtful — certainly more thoughtful than GDPR — in figuring out how to do that in the United States effectively.”