Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas suggested that CNN may have broken the law by threatening to reveal the identity of the man who created a satirical professional-wrestling GIF which was then turned into a video tweeted out by President Donald Trump.
"Troubling. I assume CNN's lawyers are examining GA § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion," Cruz wrote on Twitter July 5, according to The Hill. "If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker's IP it's a GA crime if they threatened to 'Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule.'"
The video clip in question showed Trump taking down and pummeling a man whose head had been replaced by CNN's logo. Trump tweeted the video on July 2 and faced widespread backlash in the media.
On July 5, CNN published an article by Andrew Kaczynski, who wrote that the network had tracked down the Reddit user behind the gif.
"Now the user is apologizing, writing in a lengthy post on Reddit that he does not advocate violence against the press and expressing remorse there and in an interview with CNN for other posts he made that were racist and anti-Semitic," Kaczynski wrote.
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.
The article sparked outrage and led to accusations that CNN had engaged in blackmail against a private citizen. As a result, the hashtag #CNNBlackmail began trending on Twitter.
CNN has since denied any wrongdoing, telling Buzzfeed in a statement: "Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced [the Reddit user] 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," the statement continued, according to The Hill. "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."
Trump rebuked CNN for its handling of the situation during a news conference in Poland on July 6.
"I think what CNN did was unfortunate for them," he told reporters, according to Politico. "As you know, now they have some pretty serious problems. They have been fake news for a long time. CNN has really taken it too seriously. I think they've hurt themselves badly. Very, very badly."