President Trump’s tweet of a fake video showing him body-slamming the CNN logo has been a consistent focus of the network’s last four days of news coverage.
Trump tweeted the video Sunday morning, sending the media into a frenzy and kicking-off four straight days of CNN coverage. The network’s original news story was titled, “Trump punches CNN in a juvenile tweet.” That same day, CNN ran a story on whether or not Trump’s body-slam tweet violated Twitter’s rules. (Twitter said it didn’t.)
CNN also ran on Sunday an analysis on the tweet by editor-at-large Chris Cillizza headlined, “Why pro wrestling is the perfect metaphor for Donald Trump’s presidency,” a story reporting on the network’s own statement about the tweet — which the network claimed “encourages violence against reporters” and a story on Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse’s reaction to the tweet, in addition to significant on-air coverage of the tweet.
CNN then devoted its attention to the origins of Trump’s WWE-style video, which the network traced to an anonymous Reddit user posting under the name “HanAssholeSolo.” CNN’s journalistic sleuths dug through HanAssholeSolo’s past posts and found racist and anti-Semitic content, including one targeting CNN employees.
CNN’s coverage of the tweet Monday focused on the Reddit user’s posting history, as well as the White House’s silence on HanAssholeSolo, one of the site’s 110 million monthly visitors in the country.
“President Donald Trump’s top aides are staying silent about the possible anti-Semitic, racist and anti-Muslim origins of a video the President tweeted Sunday, declining to answer a series of CNN questions about the video and its self-proclaimed originator,” read a Dan Merica story on Monday.
The network also ran an op-ed that day from Daily Beast columnist Dean Obeidallah titled, “Trump wrestling beatdown video is no joke.”
CNN covered the tweet in every hour of its on-air coverage Monday starting at the 11:00 a.m. hour and going through the 7 p.m. hour.
“I want to know today, how from this troll on Reddit, this hateful troll who posts anti-Semitic racist trash against CNN and other people and outlets how did it get from this person to the president’s twitter feed?” asked CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter during one such segment. “We don’t know the answer to that. There’s a lot of clues online about how this thing started but now how it reached the president’s desk. I hope the White House answers that because this is not the first time we have seen sort of meme from the swamps of the Internet make its way to the president’s Twitter feed.”
On Monday and Tuesday, CNN’s journalists dug into the personal identity of Reddit user HanAssholeSolo. Their investigation culminated in a story that led the site’s online coverage late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski found out the user’s real-life identity but opted to conditionally not identify the private citizen in large part because HanAssholeSolo posted a thorough apology after being contacted by CNN.
“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change,” Kaczynski added, in what many said was a clear threat to out the Reddit user to the public if he resumed making offensive posts on Reddit. Journalists on both left and right said that CNN’s article was out-of-bounds. Kaczynski and CNN both strongly denied that the network was trying to blackmail or intimidate the Reddit user.
Even as CNN drew backlash for its story on the anonymous Reddit user, the network continued pushing forward in its coverage of Trump’s tweet and the Reddit user who claimed credit for creating it.
CNN’s morning show, “New Day,” devoted significant attention to HanAssholeSolo. Both Chris Cuomo and his co-host Alisyn Camerota conceded during their show that the Reddit user’s apology helped save him from being publicly identified by CNN. Cuomo, brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seemed to think the network should have publicly identified the anonymous Reddit user.
“I think we’re protecting his safety,” Camerota noted at one point about CNN’s decision not to dox HanAssholeSolo. Cuomo shot back: “Is that our job?”
He later cast doubt on the sincerity of the apology from HanAssholeSolo, who said he was just “trolling” and didn’t actually mean anything he was saying.
“It’s a little bit convenient to apologize when you’re exposed, and there’s a lot of stuff on this person’s site. You’re not a bigot by accident,” Cuomo said. “But whatever, you want to be big-hearted about it, that’s fine, and CNN is not exposing his identity.”
Cuomo also asked his Twitter followers whether CNN made the right move in not naming the Reddit user. “Should CNN reveal name of Reddit user who made trump wrestling video?” Cuomo asked. “Had a lot of bigoted and hateful material on page and website.” He later deleted the tweet.
Cillizza, who was one of the guests on “New Day” talking about the Reddit user, posted an article about Trump’s tweet Wednesday afternoon titled, “We still don’t know how Trump got that wrestling GIF.”
Cillizza called it “stunning” that the White House “would deny something as small — in the grand scheme of things — as the origins of a GIF in a tweet sent by the president” — the same “small” topic to which CNN devoted several days’ worth of coverage.