Is CNN guilty of blackmail against the Reddit user who created the viral GIF of Donald Trump attacking a mock CNN reporter?
The internet seems to think so.
The term #CNNBlackmail became a trending term on Twitter in the early morning hours on Wednesday after the cable news outlet tracked down the person responsible for using some creative editing to turn Donald Trump’s appearance on the WWE into a slam against CNN.
The incident started earlier in the week, when a Reddit user who went by HanA**holeSolo created a gif of Trump attacking someone with a CNN logo for a head. Trump himself then tweeted the GIF, leading to criticism that he was promoting violence against journalists.
At the same time, many began looking into the posting history of HanA**holeSolo and found a number of racist and anti-Semitic images. A CNN investigation ultimately uncovered the person’s real-life identity.
“Using identifying information that HanA**holeSolo posted on Reddit, [CNN’s] KFile was able to determine key biographical details, to find the man’s name using a Facebook search and ultimately corroborate details he had made available on Reddit,” a CNN report noted.
The Reddit user then deleted all previous comments and wrote a lengthy apology.
“The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation,” he wrote.
“I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more.”
The CNN report added that the man behind HanA**hole*Solo then called the network, confirming his identity and saying he was nervous about the consequences being outed could have for himself and his family. The network complied with this request but also appeared to issue a warning to the man and to others who might exhibit the same behavior online.
“CNN is not publishing HanA**holeSolo’s name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.”
“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
But that warning to expose the Reddit user’s identity itself led to controversy, and many people took to social media to voice their displeasure with the network. The term CNN Blackmail was trending across social media, with many noting the network’s apparent hypocrisy for using anonymous sources in their own reporting.
You never take on the internet, specially Reddit. CNN apparently thought this was a good decision. Ha good luck #CNNBlackmail— Nick Short ???????? (@PoliticalShort) July 5, 2017
CNN can threaten to dox private citizens' information, but won't reveal their anonymous sources in news tips. #CNNBlackMail— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) July 5, 2017
This is not the first bit of controversy that CNN has found this week. Earlier, the network reported on a story claiming that the Trump White House threatened MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to release a hit piece in the National Enquirer if they did not issue an apology to Trump. But as the New York Post discovered, the image of National Enquirer cover used during the segment was one that never actually existed.
“The cover — which has the headline ‘Heidi Cruz: Betrayed by Cheating Husband!’ and promised details on a ‘sordid threesome, sleazy love letters and sensational photo proof’ — has never appeared on the National Enquirer, according to sources at the magazine,” the report noted.
“It seems that it may have been created as clickbait.”
And the bad publicity seems to continue for the network. In the early morning on Wednesday, the CNN Blackmail term had reached the very top of Twitter.
[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]