CNN Accused of ‘Blackmail’ of Trump Body-Slam GIF Creator

Network’s reporter says that anonymous Reddit user is “middle-aged man,” not a teenager as online critics have claimed

Last Updated: July 5, 2017 @ 11:33 AM

The hashtag #CNNBlackmail started trending late Tuesday after conservative commentators alleged that the network threatened to reveal the identify of the anonymous Redditor who apologized Tuesday for creating the video of President Trump beating up a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his head.

Many online critics interpreted a statement in CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski’s story “How CNN Found the Reddit User Behind the Trump Wrestling GIF” to mean that the network would identify “HanAssholeSolo” if he backtracks his apology or creates another post that CNN deems offensive.

But Kaczynski took to Twitter to defend his article with a series of tweets, saying that the network had not “threatened” the pseudonymous Reddit user and only spoke to him after he had posted his apology.

The CNN reporter also denied claims that the GIF creator was 15 years old, an assertion that was widely repeated online — including in a Wednesday morning tweet by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son.

“Need to point out again HanAssholeSolo is a middle aged man,” Kaczynski wrote Wednesday morning. “People claiming he’s 15 are wrong.”

CNN issued the following statement: 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.

The user, who calls himself “HanAssholeSolo” on Reddit, apologized and announced he was leaving Reddit.

Kaczynski’s story featured a disclaimer that many on Twitter read as a threat to squelch future speech, a characterization the reporter denies: “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… CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” even covered the #CNNBlackmail hashtag on Wednesday morning.

Check out some of the Twitter response:

Check out Kaczynski’s response: