As with so many things having do with the president in 2017, this mess started with a tweet.
You’ve probably seen a few tweets about a gif — something to do with Reddit, Trump, and CNN — many of them infused with a lot of 140-character anger. From there, fans of President Donald Trump and their most-hated media outlet, CNN, were on yet another collision course.
I’ve tried to explain what happened, below.
On Sunday, July 2, Trump tweeted this short video along with the hashtag #FraudNewsCNN.
The tweet was derided as — at the least — making light of attacks on journalists. Trump has said the press is the “enemy of the people,” and the video seemed another significant bullet point in a growing list of the president’s anti-media rhetoric.
As CNN detailed here, a Reddit user who goes by the name HanAssholeSolo made a gif very similar to that video about a week before the president tweeted it, and, at first thinking Trump had sent out his exact gif, took credit for the tweet.
Then, as tends to happen, HanAssholeSolo became intensely famous for an intensely brief period of time. His other posts — including racist and anti-Semitic ones — made rounds online.
By the Monday after Trump’s tweet, CNN had located the man behind the username. CNN reached out to him, but he didn’t initially respond. Instead, he issued a now-removed statement via Reddit on Tuesday.
In the statement, he apologized to Redditors for the influx of media attention, to members of the press, and to those he’d offended with his racist and anti-Semitic posts.
“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.”
HanAssholeSolo tried to end his statement on a happy note.
“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.”
Then he deleted his account.
The CNN controversy
CNN wrote a story detailing much of the above, but part of that story has itself become a story.
Covering his conversation with the man behind HanAssholeSolo, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski spelled out the following:
After posting his apology, “HanA**holeSolo” called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, “HanA**holeSolo” sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and 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.
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.
That last line above caused so much of a stir that alt-right personality Mike Cernovich — of rape apologist and “maybe Hillary Clinton has lots of seizures” fame — started boosting the hashtag #CNNBlackmail, the idea being that CNN coerced this Redditor into apologizing on threat of doxxing him.
The hashtag spread to Fox News and a son of the president.
But while tweets using the hashtag are predictably partisan and vitriolic, the line caused concern even among a few who don’t belong on the “let’s bash CNN for retweets” bandwagon.
This feels weirdly coercive? Not sure how comfortable I am with a media outlet playing this role
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) July 5, 2017
Kaczynski obviously saw the criticism, and has explained his side on Twitter.
CNN also released a statement, saying, “any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false.”
Kaczynski added that HanAssholeSolo said he did not feel threatened by CNN.
Controversies that aren’t controversies
CNN controversy number two centers around the age of HanAssholeSolo. Twitter users, including, once more, a son of the president, have driven home the idea that the gif-maker is 15.
Kaczynski has repeatedly referred to HanAssholeSolo as a “middle-aged man,” and CNN wrote in its statement that the man is an “adult male, not a 15-year-old boy.”
Unless someone out there is sitting on proof that this Redditor is a teenager, that’s about all there is to say.