Critics Say CNN Threatened Reddit User Over Doctored Trump Video

The multi-billion dollar network is being accused of intimidating and blackmailing a private citizen into silence.

July 6, 2017 9:23 am
A still image from the doctored video depicting President Trump tackling CNN. (Screenshot)
A still image from the doctored video depicting President Trump tackling CNN. (Screenshot)

CNN is grappling with extensive backlash for the way it handled a story involving the Reddit user who created an altered video of President Trump tackling CNN at a wresting match.

The president initially tweeted the video, which depicts him pummeling his opponent, whose face is covered by the CNN logo, at a 2007 WWE Wrestlemania event, out to his 33 million Twitter followers on July 2, deriding the network as “fake news.”

The president was criticized across the political spectrum for what many interpreted as encouraging violence against journalists, but the network itself is facing backlash for the way it handled its follow-up story: “How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF.”

In the story, CNN reported that they tracked down the Reddit user who claimed credit for the doctored video, spurring him to give an extensive apology for creating the original video—as well as other offensive content he created, which included anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and racist posts.

“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,” the user, identified only as his username, HanA—holeSolo, wrote.

But the controversy aimed at the television network stems from this portion of the story, according to Variety: “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.”

Many critics, including other journalists, saw this caveat as a blackmail threat from a powerful organization aimed at a private citizen, according to the New York Times.

CNN responded to the controversy with the following statement:

“Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false,” the statement reportedly said. “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.”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.