CNN claimed on Wednesday that it will reveal the identity of the user behind a GIF circulated by President Donald Trump if the user’s “ugly behavior” resumes. The animation, posted by the president on his Twitter account Sunday, shows Trump wresting with a man that has the news outlet’s logo superimposed over his face. Reddit user “HanAssholeSolo,” who claims to have created the GIF, had a history of racist and antisemitic posts made under the same account. These posts are now deleted.
In a story published Wednesday, CNN said that it would not share the man’s identity, but that could change:
CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who 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. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.
On Monday, CNN attempted to make contact with the user via email and phone but did not receive a response. The news outlet was able to discover the user’s real name by looking through Reddit’s history and corroborating key details.
Although CNN did not speak to the user, the following day an apology was posted on the Donald Trump subreddit (the post has now been taken down).
“I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted, and anti-semitic,” the user said in the post. “I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so for my entire life. I am not the person that the media portrays me to be in real life, I was trolling and posting things to get a reaction from the subs on reddit and never meant any of the hateful things I said in those posts.”
“HanAssholeSolo” went on to say that the GIF was created as satire and it was not intended as a call to violence against CNN.
In a followup interview with CNN on Tuesday, the user said that he would not have given the White House permission to use his GIF had they asked. However, after Trump shared the animation on his Twitter page, “HanAssholeSolo” had posted that he felt “honored” to have his post shared by the “MAGA EMPEROR himself.”
Andrew Kaczynski, the reporter behind Wednesday’s story, said that any claims CNN threatened the user were a lie, and that the user was in “total agreement” with the outlet’s statement.
“CNN specifically choose not to reveal this guy’s identity and to say we threatened anyone is a total lie,” Kaczynski said on his Twitter page. “”HanAssholeSolo” posted his apology before we ever spoke him. He called us afterwards to apologize further.”