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Ted Cruz Says It’s Criminal If CNN Releases Redditor Identity

Senator cites theft by extortion statute

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has added his voice to the tumult surrounding the CNN-Redditor uproar in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

Cruz tweeted CNN’s reserving the right to publish the Redditor’s identity “troubling,” and said that it’s a crime to release the identity if that person would then be subject to “hatred, contempt, or ridicule.”

Many are interpreting a line in the CNN 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.

Andrew 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 “HanAssholeSolo’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.”

The theft by extortion statute Cruz is referencing says it is illegal to “unlawfully obtain property of someone by threatening to “disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule or to impair his credit or business repute.”

CNN issued a statement in response to the backlash, saying they did not publish the Reddit user’s name “out of concern for his safety. Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false.”

The Redditor in question created a meme, a grainy mirror image of a scene from a 2007 WrestleMania stunt involving Trump and WWE CEO Vince McMahon — shows a pink-tie-wearing Trump jumping a suited figure on the side of a wrestling ring, tossing him to the ground and then punching him in the face before walking away in triumph.

It set off a firestorm on Sunday after it was tweeted out without attribution by Donald Trump’s official Twitter account. The situation escalated after journalist Jared Yates Sexton identified “HanAssholeSolo” as the meme’s creator and noted that some of the user’s other reddit posts were antisemitic, after which Sexton says he was subjected to a torrent of abuse from Trump supporters. “I was told people wanted to shoot, strangle me, hang me, throw me out of a helicopter,” Sexton said Monday. “Some assumed I was Jewish because I spoke out against antisemtisism [sic]. others said I was a race traitor.”

The Reddit user apologized on Tuesday and deleted his Reddit account shortly after. “I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semetic [sic]. 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. This is my last post from this account and I wanted to do it on a positive note,” the user said. “[H]opefully it will heal the controversy that this all caused. Peace.”