Weighing in on the controversy over allegations that CNN engaged in coercion or extortion of an anonymous Reddit user whose gif showing pre-politician Donald Trump wrestling WWE founder Vince McMahon with the CNN logo superimposed on the latter's face, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a query about the embattled network.
In two tweets, Cruz wrote: ‘Troubling. I assume CNN’s lawyers are examining [State of} Georgia [code] § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion. If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker’s IP [address], it’s a Georgia crime if they threatened to ‘Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule…’”
The statute cited also says that it is illegal to “unlawfully obtain property of someone by threatening to “disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule or to impair his credit or business repute.”
(1/2) Troubling. I assume CNN's lawyers are examining GA § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion. If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker's IP... https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
(2/2) it's a GA crime if they threatened to "Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule...." https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
On Tuesday, CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski published a story that noted that the Reddit user who used “HanAssholeSolo” issued an apology for the video just “one day after CNN identified the man behind the account and attempted to make contact with him.” Writing how his KFile colleagues at CNN traced HanAssholeSolo down, Kaczysnki wrote that CNN would not release his identity because of his extensive apology. However, Kaczynski warned: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” Kacyznski did identify the Reddit user later as a middle-age male, rather than the adolescent male that his critics purported him to be.
Kacyznski’s comments caused concern and outrage among commentators on social media. Some understood the warning as a threat. Soon, the, #CNNBlackmail hashtag was trending on Twitter.
CNN issued a statement denying accusations of blackmail or coercion. The network statement read:
"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. In fact, CNN included its decision to withhold the user's identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal."