The Reddit user behind Trump's CNN meme apologized, but now CNN is facing backlash

The Reddit user said he never intended his anti-CNN meme — you know, the one tweeted by President Donald Trump in which the now-president beats up CNN in a wrestling match — to become a call for violence against journalists.

“I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life,” user HanA–holeSolo wrote in an apology, posted to the popular pro-Trump r/The_Donald subreddit Tuesday. “I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction … and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts.”

The apology, which has since been deleted along with the user’s entire Reddit account, ended with a call for peace: “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.”

It didn’t.

#CNNBlackmail was the top trending Twitter topic Wednesday morning, thanks to the efforts of a furious Trump internet, which had concluded that the user’s apology was forced by a “threat” from CNN. Their evidence? A story CNN itself published, detailing its attempts to contact and identify the anonymous Reddit user ahead of their apology, whose offensive posting history suddenly became part of a national news story.

The part of the article that infuriated the Trump internet — and people on both sides of the political spectrum, who questioned the ethical standards of the network’s decision — had to do with how CNN described its reasoning for not identifying the Redditor by name. Reporter Andrew Kaczynski wrote that CNN had spoken with the person behind the account, and would not identify the user because “he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology,” who had promised not to continue flooding the internet with offensive memes.

Overnight, the r/The_Donald board that once hosted the user’s apology and plea for peace was filled up with even more anti-CNN memes, and posts calling for a full-on war against the network. The Trump-supporting Redditors picked up an idea from 4chan’s /pol/ board, organizing mass calls and tweet-storms to a long list of companies, demanding they stop advertising on CNN. The story soon spread to Trump-friendly publications like Gateway Pundit and Infowars. It was the front page of Drudge,

The CNN reporter, Kaczynski, tweeted Tuesday that the line about withholding the troll’s identity is being “misinterpreted”:

“This line is being misinterpreted. It was intended only to mean we made no agreement w/the man about his identity.”

Meanwhile, a tantalizing but extremely unconfirmed detail began to attach itself to the meme. Was the user a 15-year-old kid, as many posts on the #CNNBlackmail hashtag repeat as fact? Even though CNN, and screenshots of the user’s own Reddit history seem to contradict this, indicating that the user is significantly older, the notion that CNN had just threatened to doxx a minor was extremely shareable among Trump supporters, including one of the president’s own sons, Donald Trump Jr.:

“So I guess they weren’t effective threatening the admin so they go after & bully a 15 y/o? Seems in line w their ‘standards'”

Others called for a very personal form of revenge against CNN, and Kaczynski specifically. A link to a pastebin page that appeared to contain the personal identifying information of Kaczynski, some of his family members and his colleagues circulated on 4chan Wednesday morning. And the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website called for even more. A popular post called for CNN employees to quit their jobs and denounce the network, or face consequences if they didn’t:

“We are going to track down your parents.We are going to track down your siblings.We are going to track down your spouses.We are going to track down your children. Because hey, that’s what you guys get to do, right? We’re going to see how you like it when our reporters are hunting down your children.”

It’s a particularly threatening version of an inversion that is common on the internet today: Keep reporting on the Trump internet, and the Trump internet will decide it’s “reporting” on you. And many mainstream outlets are still struggling to contend with it.

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