Almost a day has transpired while CNN has reported on its uncovering of a Reddit user who it claims was responsible for originally posting a gif depicting Donald Trump before he became president wrestling with WWE founder Vince McMahon. In the gif, McMahon’s face was obscured by the CNN logo. When Trump tweeted the video, it prompted reactions from media sources and Democrats that the president was threatening harm to CNN and the media.
CNN claimed that it contacted HanAssholeSolo, the putative creator of the gif, threatening to out the Reddit user if he makes any further “offending posts.” Commentators have cried foul, claiming that CNN may have engaged in coercion or extortion. HanAssholeSolo has apologized profusely and has removed Reddit posts that CNN found offensive.
However, it turns out that the gif that Trump tweeted may not have been generated by HanAssholeSolo. According to BuzzFeed, “one user pointed out that what Trump tweeted wasn’t actually HanA**holeSolo’s GIF.” While the gif Trump tweeted had both audio and video, the original HanAssholeSolo gif lacked audio. In addition, the original gif was “shorter, had a different aspect ratio, and had a WWE logo in the corner…Not even the colors are processed in the same manner… HanAssholeSolo's GIF has an NTSC aspect ratio, because it was cut directly from a taping of analog Westlemania footage. Trump's video has an aspect ratio of 16:9.”
BuzzFeed went on to report: “Someone downloaded the GIF that HanAssholeSolo originally posted to Reddit. Then that person cropped it to better fit a video player like Facebook or YouTube. Then they went through the effort of syncing it back up with audio from the original clip. Then that person put it somewhere where Trump or one of Trump's people could see it and download it. Then whoever found the video version had to get it to Trump's phone.”
While someone may have used the same clip from WWE to imitate the meme by HanAssholeSolo meme, the actual gif may have been taken from Facebook instead of Reddit. Because other social media posts by HanAssholeSolo have been deemed racist and anti-Semitic. However, since it is likely that Trump found the gif otherwise, HanAssholeSolo’s objectionable posts cannot be directly linked to the president.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other critics of CNN have suggested that the network may have violated state and federal laws against coercion and extortion because of the implied threat it issued that it identify HanAssholeSolo. CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski has already verified that the user is a middle-aged man, not an adolescent boy. Donald Trump Jr. has called CNN's behavior "blackmail."