Don Jr. accuses CNN of ‘blackmail’ over Trump wrestling GIF

With President Trump on his way to Europe, his son Donald Jr. has taken on the job of defending him on Twitter, accusing CNN of “blackmail” in extorting an apology from the creator of a GIF showing the president attacking a figure representing the network.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted a GIF showing him clotheslining a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his face. It was derived from a 2007 publicity stunt at Wrestlemania that involved Trump tackling Vince McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. It was later revealed that the GIF originated on Reddit, where the creator, under the username HanAssholeSolo, has also posted a number of racist and anti-Semitic memes, which he has since removed from the site.

Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of The Trump Organization, discusses the expansion of Trump hotels, Monday, June 5, 2017, in New York. (Photo: Kathy Willens/AP)

CNN tracked down the Reddit user, but announced that it was not publishing his identity, because he “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.”

But the network added a caveat: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

Critics, Donald Trump Jr. among them, quickly speculated CNN may have blackmailed HanAssholeSolo into providing an interview, or issuing an apology, by threatening to publish his identity. In one of his tweets, Trump claimed the network was attempting to “bully a 15 y/o” boy. CNN says the user is an adult.

Amid the backlash, CNN issued a statement defending their decision, citing the potential of a threat to HanAssholeSolo’s safety.

“CNN decided not to publish the name of the Reddit user out of concern for his safety. Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false. The user, who is an adult male, not a 15-year-old boy, apologized and deleted his account before ever speaking with our reporter. CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user. CNN included its decision to withhold the user’s identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal.”

The latest spat adds to the White House’s intensifying public feud with CNN, which the president has repeatedly labeled “fake news,” although recently his preferred moniker is “fraud news.”

Trump’s use of the anti-CNN GIF is not the first time he has drawn unfavorable publicity by tweeting loaded images of dubious provenance. During the campaign, he tweeted a photo of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, laid against a background of cash. A Star of David branded Clinton “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”

At the time, his campaign would only say the image was from “an anti-Hillary Twitter user” and claimed the Star of David was a sheriff’s badge.


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