The Reddit user credited for creating the video depicting President Donald Trump “attacking” CNN in a wrestling ring issued a lengthy apology on Tuesday, saying “I am in no way this kind of person” and that they did not advocate violence against the media.
The user, “HanAssholeSolo,” issued the apology after CNN reportedly discovered their real identity. The user has since deleted their account on the social news site.
The controversy over the video was sparked Sunday when Trump tweeted the clip from his private Twitter account. The footage is originally from 2007, when Trump appeared on WWE’s WrestleMania and beat up WWE owner Vince McMahon. In the repurposed GIF, CNN’s logo was superimposed on McMahon’s head. “#FraudNewsCNN,” the president tweeted, echoing his oft-repeated message that “fake news” is prevalent in the mainstream media.
Reacting to the tweet, CNN said, “It’s a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”
The Reddit user HanAssholeSolo has been credited with creating the video, which they posted on the social news site last Wednesday. Unlike the one Trump tweeted, however, that version did not have any audio.
On Sunday morning, following Trump’s tweet, HanAssholeSolo said he was “honored” that the president would share his clip, according to The Guardian.
“Holy Shit!! I wake up and have my morning coffee and who retweets my shitpost but the MAGA EMPORER himself!!! I am honored!!!” the user wrote on a thread in /TheDonald, a pro-Trump subreddit that describes itself as a “never-ending rally dedicated” to President Trump.
“Remember to tell your grandkids!” responded another Redditor.
The White House has not confirmed where the video originated, but a senior administration official told CNN this week that the clip was not taken from Reddit.
In the days following Trump’s tweet, other posts by HanAssholeSolo — many of them racist and anti-Semitic — started circulating on social media.
Jared Yates Sexton, a New York Times contributor and assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, shared some of these posts on Twitter.
Sexton told HuffPost that he subsequently received death threats and other threats to his safety.
On Tuesday, HanAssholeSolo took to /TheDonald to apologize for his earlier posts. The apology has since been deleted, as has the user’s Reddit account. Screenshots of the apology remain online.
Saying they’d only been “trolling,” the user said: “I would also like to apologize for the posts made that were racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic. I am in no way this kind of person, I love and accept people of all walks of life ... I do not advocate violence against the press.”
“This has been an extreme wake up call to always consider how others may think or feel about what is being said before clicking the submit button anywhere online that an opinion is allowed,” the user continued, later adding that “[t]rolling is nothing more than bullying a wide audience.”
CNN’s investigative reporting team KFile says the apology was posted after it tried to contact the user, whose real identity they’d discovered.
The KFile team said it attempted to contact the user, whom it identified as a man, on Monday but that “he did not respond.” The next day, the apology was issued on Reddit and the user reportedly contacted CNN.
“After posting his apology, [the user] called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity,” the outlet wrote. “In the interview, [the user] sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.”
CNN said it is not publishing the person’s name at this time, but noted that it “reserves the right to publish his identity” should the user “repeat this ugly behavior on social media.”
Redditors on /TheDonald have accused CNN of blackmailing the user ― coercing them to apologize by threatening to “doxx” them, internet slang for exposing someone’s identity.
KFile’s Andrew Kaczynski, however, has rebutted this claim.
Late on Tuesday, the hashtag #CNNBlackmail began trending on Twitter, with users sharing other memes of Trump chasing and pummelling CNN.