On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz, a former lecturer at the University of Texas School of Law, cited legal precedents while suggesting that the alleged blackmail incident between CNN and the Reddit user who created the infamous GIF showing Trump wrestling with the media giant, may have been unlawful.
After President Donald Trump controversially tweeted the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) depicting a violent wrestling encounter with CNN, social media users, as well as reporters and politicians swiftly reacted with a mixture of glee and concern.
A Reddit user called HanA**holeSolo later claimed responsibility for creating the GIF and eventually apologized after it was revealed that the user had also posted racist and anti-Semitic material.
Andrew Kaczynski, a reporter at KFile, then wrote an article for CNN clarifying their decision not to reveal the identity of HanA**holeSolo, despite having managed to trace the post to the person at the source. The CNN article explained that in the apology, HanA**holeSolo “showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.”
However, CNN made it clear that the Network “reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
Despite the apology, CNN responded by defending the KFile reporter’s assertion that HanA**holeSolo’s identity could be revealed at any stage if CNN so wished. CNN clarified that it would not be pursuing such action for the time being, and while many people viewed the defense as a covert act of blackmail, CNN categorically denied the allegations.
“CNN decided not to publish the name of the Reddit user out of concern for his safety. Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false. The user, who is an adult male, not a 15-year-old boy, apologized and deleted his account before ever speaking with our reporter. CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user. In fact, CNN included its decision to withhold the user’s identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal.”
Nevertheless, Ted Cruz has entered the fray by citing both New York and Georgia state laws to claim that CNN’s alleged blackmail attempt could be construed as an unlawful act under the banner of either “theft by extortion,” or “coercion.”
CNN is based in Georgia and could, therefore, be prosecuted under local state law.
(1/2) Troubling. I assume CNN's lawyers are examining GA § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion. If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker's IP... https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the GIF that was posted on Reddit by HanA**holeSolo was later edited to include sound, which is the version President Trump ultimately posted on his Twitter account.
In recent months, President Donald Trump has intensified efforts to undermine the credibility of the main news networks, such as CNN. It’s no surprise that Trump supporters were quick to pounce on the opportunity to criticize the actions of CNN. It was mainly the network’s assertion that it reserves the right to reveal the true identity of HanA**holeSolo that caught the ire of CNN opponents.
Within minutes of CNN’s statement, Trump’s fiercely loyal supporters had started a Twitter hashtag under #CNNBlackmail, which eventually trended for a significant portion of the day on Tuesday.
Celebrities, including Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., prominent conservatives and individual Republican members of Congress took to Twitter to contribute to the #CNNBlackmail hashtag.
Following the posting of the original GIF showing Donald Trump “beating CNN,” the cable news network’s public relations team issued a statement claiming that “it is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.” CNN’s PR team added that Trump is embroiled in “juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”
President Donald Trump has been at odds with the mainstream media since the early days of his presidential campaign, even going so far as to refer to the mainstream news as “the enemy of the American people.” Trump cites the persistent negative coverage he receives – “fake news” as he often calls it – as so-called proof that he is the target of an ongoing smear campaign by the press. So far, no evidence to that effect has been uncovered.
[Featured Image by Alan Diaz/AP Images]