THE ORIGINAL “CABLE NEWS NETWORK” SEEKS OUT PRIVATE CITIZEN, ELICITS “APOLOGY,” PROMISES ANONYMITY THEN THREATENS TO EXPOSE HIS IDENTITY ANYWAY
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 5, 2017) — In a late-breaking development just before midnight on Tuesday, the hashtag “#CNNBlackmail” began trending on Twitter in response to CNN’s own report that it had sought out, identified and contacted the creator of a parody in which an image of the president appears to wrestle to the floor an unidentified CNN reporter on the floor surrounding a wrestling ring.
The “CNN reporter” has his face obscured by the CNN logo throughout the short video, which reportedly was created from a motionless graphic produced in “GIF,” or “Graphics Interchange Format.”
The article was written by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, formerly of Buzzfeed News, for a series entitled “KFILE,” entitled, “How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF.”
In the article and on Twitter, Kaczynski explains how the cable news outlet located the creator of the graphic which was morphed by an unknown party or parties into the short video clip which President Donald Trump read tweeted on Sunday, igniting another media uproar just before the Independence Day holiday.
CNN reported that the graphic-creator “apologized” and “expressed remorse in an interview with CNN for other posts he made that were racist and anti-Semitic.”
Did CNN overstep?
In this newest development, CNN has been accused by many observers and some in the media of committing “blackmail” against the private citizen, whose reported “apology” reads, in part:
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 image-creator was reportedly a member of the Reddit community known as “The Donald,” an online forum highly supportive of the 45th president.
CNN claims that the Reddit user made “anti-Semitic” and other “offensive” remarks on his Reddit feed without providing examples and which have since reportedly been removed from the message board.
Reddit users on Wednesday appeared to be fighting back against what they see as CNN’s bullying of the member, and the video clip in question remains available there, as CNN noted.
Contrary to some reports, Kaczynski stated on Twitter that the graphic-creator is “a middle-aged man” and not a 15-year-old.
Following Trump’s circulation of the video clip, CNN contributors and commentators expressed indignation and shock, claiming that Trump was promoting violence against journalists.
Trump had not commented on the video since Sunday until Wednesday morning when he tweeted, in response to a tweet from Project Veritas‘s James O’Keefe, “Trust me, they’re trying to look worse than possible! #CNNBlackmail”.
Trump’s son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., also weighed in on Wednesday morning:
On Tuesday night, after Independence Day revelers and vacationers returned to the internet, some Twitter users vowed to produce “memes” which would further irritate CNN employees.
Many, including a congressman, wondered if CNN had “crossed a line” in seeking out and contacting the creator of an image which CNN found distasteful to its brand.
On Wednesday morning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange tweeted that CNN may have violated federal law, quoting U.S. Code § 241:
The entire statute reads:
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 696; Pub. L. 90–284, title I, § 103(a), Apr. 11, 1968, 82 Stat. 75; Pub. L. 100–690, title VII, § 7018(a), (b)(1), Nov. 18, 1988, 102 Stat. 4396; Pub. L. 103–322, title VI, § 60006(a), title XXXII, §§ 320103(a), 320201(a), title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 1970, 2109, 2113, 2147; Pub. L. 104–294, title VI, §§ 604(b)(14)(A), 607(a), Oct. 11, 1996, 110 Stat. 3507, 3511.)
Project Veritas‘s James O’Keefe tweeted, promising a fourth video in his series exposing CNN as having admitted that claims of “Russia collusion” relating to Trump and his former campaign associates are as yet unsubstantiated.
As of 11:15 a.m. EDT, “The Donald” Reddit community placed at the top of its message board O’Keefe’s announcement and an apparent campaign to convince CNN’s advertisers to withdraw their support of the news channel.
Tweets under #CNNBlackmail continue to pour in by the hundreds on Wednesday.
In his article, Kaczynski pledged to withhold the identity of the Reddit graphic-creator given his reported apology and “because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again,” but added, “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
Later, CNN “New Day” anchor Chris Cuomo threatened to expose his name anyway:
While that tweet was reportedly removed, Cuomo additionally tweeted at approximately 9:45 a.m. EDT on Wednesday:
At 11:46 a.m. EDT, this writer contacted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and two commissioners to ask:
Good morning, sirs, I am writing regarding the very recent CNN controversy about which I am sure you have heard.
In reviewing the FCC’s rules for cable news providers, I was unable to find anything that might address the situation, which as I understand it is:
A cable news station, CNN, sought out, contacted and spoke with an individual who created a graphic, later morphed into a video and retweeted by the president, which CNN found distasteful or threatening.
CNN reported that “an apology” was issued by the individual about his posting of the graphic as well as “offensive” remarks he might have made on the message board Reddit, subtopic “The Donald.”
CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski stated in his article that the station would withhold the person’s identity but suggested that “that could change” if the person reverts to behavior which CNN finds distasteful or offensive.
This morning, CNN’s Chris Cuomo threatened to release the person’s name, despite Kaczynski’s pledge, because of comments the individual had allegedly made which are reportedly no longer available (see attachment).
If my understanding of the situation is accurate, does the individual have cause to file a complaint with the FCC, or would remedy be found elsewhere?
More generally, is this cable news outlet performing its public function properly?
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor