While Americans were busy celebrating Independence Day, CNN was busy chasing down the source of a short video tweeted by President Trump. According to Breitbart.com and many others, the network tracked the Reddit user down and threatened to expose his identity, essentially blackmailing him.
According to Breitbart (Edited for language):
After reporting Monday that the Reddit user, “HanA**holeSolo,” 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.
CNN ultimately decided not to reveal the user’s identity — not for safety reasons, but for political ones, apparently rewarding him for apologizing and recanting his views, Breitbart said. Additionally, the network threatened to expose his identity in the future if it disapproved of his behavior or his statements.
According to the report (Emphasis added):
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 the report:
— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) July 5, 2017
That what it looks like to us. “Doxxing,” for those not familiar with the term, is the unauthorized release of personal information like name, home address, phone number, etc.
Wikilieaks called it extortion:
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 5, 2017
Julian Assange went even further, accusing CNN of committing a crime under New York state law:
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) July 5, 2017
Another person said:
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
"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 his report and claimed no one was threatened:
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
He also posted a tweet claiming the Reddit user agreed:
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
Here’s the user’s full apology, as posted by Breitbart:
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
One of those critical of CNN was Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., a former Navy SEAL, who said the network may very well have crossed a line:
— Scott Taylor (@Scotttaylorva) July 5, 2017
A report at the Daily Caller said that a writer for the liberal Vox called CNN’s actions “extremely unethical.”
“I can’t emphasize how bad this is on CNN’s part,” wrote German Lopez, a reporter for liberal website Vox. “This is basically ‘don’t post stuff we don’t like or we’ll dox you.’ Extremely unethical.”
“That’s essentially blackmail. That’s CNN stating that it will out the guy if he dares to defy their political perspective or offends them sufficiently,” wrote conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote. “The whole story is frightening, and obviously an attempt to both nail Trump and discourage people from smacking CNN.”
Others leveled similar criticisms at CNN for the piece, with many using the hashtag #CNNBlackmail, which quickly became the top trending hashtag on Twitter.
Seriously, this is what the media does now? They track down people and ‘threaten’ to post their personal information for sharing content they don’t like?
This can’t be real life.
Sadly, it is.
“So if this person creates another animated gif they are basically threatening to publish his personal information. Right? Or did we read this wrong? Sounds sorta threatening to us,” Twitchy added.
Sounds threatening and unethical to us as well.
— Doc Washburn (@DocWashburn) July 5, 2017
Your company doesn't get to threaten to dox a random nobody and then attempt to take it private with a critic. Doesn't work that way https://t.co/qlZ2bjWcki
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) July 5, 2017
We accept your apologies but reserve the right to completely ruin your life
— Beaker (@PolyfoamPontiff) July 5, 2017
As a result, the hashtag #CNNBlackmail began trending on Twitter Tuesday evening. Incidents like this, by the way, are part of the reason a growing number now view CNN as the least-trusted name in cable news.
Updates: hereherehere Many on Twitter are saying the Reddit user involved is a 15-year-old teenager, but Kaczinsky has denied that claim. No doubt, many are waiting for verification, considering the source. Also, media analyst Mark Dice is calling on the White House to revoke CNN’s press credentials.
- CNN goes there, links Trump wrestling meme to racism, anti-Semitism
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- This is CNN: Destroy Trump by any means necessary
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