CNN threatened Tuesday to expose the identity of the Reddit user who had claimed credit for creating the spoof wrestling video that President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday morning, showing him fighting the cable network.
After reporting Monday that the Reddit user, “HanAssholeSolo,” had a history of racist and antisemitic tweets, CNN tracked him (apparently, he is male) down and attempted to make contact with him by email and telephone.
On Tuesday, the Reddit user posted an apology (since deleted, but reprinted in full below, via Buzzfeed News).
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski then reported Tuesday that CNN had “identified the man behind the account,” and had spoken with the Reddit user after he posted his apology. The Reddit user reportedly “asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family,” Kaczynski said.
Ultimately, CNN decided not to reveal his identity — not for safety reasons, but for political ones, apparently reward ing him for apologizing and recanting his views. In addition, CNN threatened to expose the Reddit user’s identity in future if it disapproved of his behavior or his statements — essentially blackmailing him:
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.
Critics pounced on CNN’s decision:
CNN extorts amateur satirist who made video tweeted by Trump: if you make fun of us again we will harm you https://t.co/KiKX1Gexyu pic.twitter.com/D3IvHdKUqX
Is that normal? Is @CNN essentially threatening to dox him, or am I reading that wrong? pic.twitter.com/7LMMqo1fK5
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) July 5, 2017
I’m so old, I remember when the media was warning us about rhetoric that could lead to a chilling effect on speech: https://t.co/QEQ0QbjZJY
— Peter Cook (@_Peter_Cook) July 5, 2017
When Trump goes low CNN goes lower: threatens to dox artist behind "CNN head" video if he makes fun of them again https://t.co/Ka4R1fFEWa pic.twitter.com/82eWSmWtLf
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) July 5, 2017
“We’re not the enemy of the American people. We’ll just hunt you down and ruin the life of Americans who make fun of us online”
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) July 5, 2017
Kaczynski defended the story on Twitter:
CNN specifically choose not to reveal this guy’s identity and to say we threatened anyone is a total lie.https://t.co/f02hLaVRqu
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) July 5, 2017
“HanAssholeSolo” posted his apology before we *ever* spoke him. He called us afterwards to apologize further. https://t.co/X47X3u8CUy
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) July 5, 2017
FYI “HanAssholeSolo” just called me.”I am in total agreement with your statement. I was not threatened in anyway.” https://t.co/7se1B8Z29D
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) July 5, 2017
The Reddit user’s full apology is as follows:
My fellow redditors,
First of all, I would like to apologize to the members of the reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened. I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic. I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life. I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts. I would never support any kind of violence or actions against others simply for what they believe in, their religion, or the lifestyle they choose to have. Nor would I carry out any violence against anyone based upon that or support anyone who did.
As time went on it became an addiction as to how far it could go with the posts that were made. This has been an extreme wake up call to always consider how others may think or feel about what is being said before clicking the submit button anywhere online that an opinion is allowed. Free speech is a right we all have, but it shouldn’t be used in the manner that it was in the posts that were put on this site. Just because you are behind a keyboard doesn’t mean you can’t hurt someone with your words or cause a situation such as this one where a simple meme is misconstrued as calling for violence.
I do not advocate violence against the press and the meme I posted was in no way advocating that in any way, shape or form. Our first amendment protects the press from things like violence, and we as American citizens should respect that even if the opinions of the press are not in line with our own. The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation. 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. What the President’s feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.
The Internet and social media is capable of many great things, and this is an example of the not so great things that it can do. Trolling to get a reaction out of people is not the best way to make a point, the way to do it is to present your facts in a manner to convey the message that will not invoke anger. To people who troll on the Internet for fun, consider your words and actions conveyed in your message and who it might upset or anger. Put yourself in their shoes before you post it. If you have a problem with trolling it is an addiction just like any other addiction someone can have to something and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Trolling is nothing more than bullying a wide audience. Don’t feed your own self-worth based upon inflicting suffering upon others online just because you are behind a keyboard. We as redditors and as Americans are better than this.
So to the members of this community, the site, the media (especially CNN), and anyone offended by the posts, again I apologize. This is one individual that you will not see posting hurtful or hateful things in jest online. This is my last post from this account and I wanted to do it on a positive note and hopefully it will heal the controversy that this all caused. Peace.
“The more you know yourself, the less judgmental you become” ― Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
Shortly after CNN’s blackmail controversy, an editor created a page on the topic. Other editors promptly had the story buried by moving the content into the bottom section of an article about CNN controversies. Roughly two dozen editors, mostly left-wing, supported this move citing a policy that says Wikipedia is not for news. Five of these editors showed a double standard, having previously voted to keep an article on Trump’s disclosure of intelligence about ISIS threats in a meeting with Russia where the same policy would apply.
A few editors went even further by cutting out critical information on the blackmail controversy from even the general CNN controversies article, as well as gutting nearly a third of the article’s content covering a variety of scandals that gripped the network, despite much of it being backed by sources considered reliable by Wikipedia standards. These removals included a section on CNN New Year’s Eve host Kathy Griffin’s firing from the network, which was justified by claiming it wasn’t a CNN controversy. The same argument was used to keep out mention of undercover journalist James O’Keefe’s video series on CNN, itself denied its own article by many of the same editors.
Only a small amount of the removed content had been restored after the flurry of deletions. When the situation was mentioned on the Vox Popoli blog of science fiction author Vox Day, the founder of Wikipedia alternative Infogalactic, an editor sought to restore noteworthy content about the blackmail controversy and was immediately reverted. (Breitbart)