A pair of CNN journalists have been attacked online by a “troll army” after the neo-Nazi site DailyStormer re-published their story, titled, “An avalanche of hate: How a Montana mom became the target of a neo-Nazi troll storm.”
Correspondent Sara Sidner and producer Mallory Simon reported earlier this week about a Jewish woman who confronted the mother of white supremacist leader Richard Spencer. They story detailed a woman who fears for her life because the DailyStormer launched a campaign of terror against her — and now the CNN reporters are receiving similar messages.
Andrew Anglin, who founded the DailyStormer, refers to his followers as a “troll army,” according to Sidner. He posted the CNN story on his site and didn’t specifically tell his followers to attack the journalists behind it — but he didn’t exactly discourage them, either.
Sadly, the incident has quickly made experts out of the CNN journalists in the world of online harassment.
“We’ve gotten a couple of things but they never go as far as a death threat. For example, they will not say, ‘I am going to kill you,'” Sidner told TheWrap. “They will say, ‘I hope you kill yourself.'”
Sidner said other messages have been similar, but they never use rhetoric that can be reported to the FBI.
“We know that they discuss what would get, for example, the FBI involved. Where there is an actual death threat that is illegal,” Sidner said. “I hope you die, I hope you crawl into an oven… those are things that both Mallory and I have read that were directed to us.”
Sidner said they “know where the line is” and typically don’t cross it.
Anglin did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The story that has caused the backlash was about Tanya Gersh, who is Jewish, and has been regularly attacked online since she contacted tenants of a building owned Richard Spencer’s mother, Sherry. Gersh initially said she wanted Sherry Spencer to distance herself from the views of her son to calm tensions in their small town — but that didn’t go over so well.
Gersh is now suing Anglin for “inflicting emotional distress,” “invasion of privacy” and “intimidation” because he published her contact information after Spencer’s mother accused her of making a threat in an online blog post, according to CNN.
Sherry Spencer wouldn’t speak to CNN for their report but Simon and Sidner were fascinated by the situation when they discovered it while researching hate crimes and decided to dig deeper.
“She was in fear of almost anyone she met. Her old way of life had been washed away. She was now in an America full of hate. It was an America where racism and bigotry have powerful online platforms,” Sidner wrote of Gersh in the CNN piece that was shared by DailyStormer.
“There was this sense from Tanya Gersh, through tears, who talked about having bags packed and sitting in the dark, wanting to run away,” Sidner told TheWrap. “The thing that struck me, on the phone with her, was when she said, ‘I thought 1930s Germany was a thing of the past.'”
Sidner made it clear that she doesn’t blame President Trump for the hatred, despite the fact that DailyStormer endorses Trump and the president has an ongoing feud with CNN.
“It is unfair to pin it all on one thing. We have a combination of tings happening and social media is a huge component. What we’re seeing is kind of the dark side of humanity come out in some of these posts,” Sidner said. “I have no idea how you stop something like this because people like being anonymous and nasty.”