Trump gif maker apologises for racist posts

A screen grab of the president's tweet Image copyright Twitter
Image caption The video President Trump shared was originally submitted to a pro-Trump forum on the social media site Reddit

The Reddit user who created the CNN wrestling gif adapted and shared by President Donald Trump has apologised for racist and anti-Semitic comments.

But CNN has been accused of "blackmail" by prominent alt right social media influencers following the broadcaster's investigation into the Reddit user's identity.

The gif was first published by a Reddit user, who has since deleted his account, on 28 June. The creator of the gif has an offensive word in his username that we are unable to state, so we have removed the word and will refer to him as "HanSolo".

In his apology, posted on Reddit, HanSolo said: "I would like to apologise to the members of the Reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened."

"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," he continued.

"I love and accept people of all walks of life and have done so my entire life."

Adding: "I would never support any kind of violence or actions against others simply for what they believe in, their religion, or the lifestyle they choose to have. Nor would I carry out any violence against anyone based upon that or support anyone who did."

CNN has not revealed the true identity of the user, who also took steps to delete offensive material he had posted, including racist posts, but said it "reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change".

That line has been the focus of much of the criticism levelled at CNN. Critics claim it amounts to a threat against the individual concerned.

But Andrew Kazcynski, the journalist who wrote the article, claimed that the line had been misunderstood.

"It was intended only to mean we made no agreement with the man about his identity," he tweeted.

Propelled by right-wing US internet personalities and Julian Assange, the hashtag #CNNBlackmail has been tweeted over half a million times since the article documenting how CNN tracked down HanSolo was published.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Social media users have responded to the 'blackmail' by creating memes accusing CNN of producing "fake news" and being defeated by President Trump

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange accused CNN of "blackmailing a private citizen" and tweeted: "When Trump goes low CNN goes lower: threatens to dox artist behind 'CNN head' video if he makes fun of them again".

Image copyright Twitter

Right-wing online activists and conspiracy theorists, including Jack Posobiec and Mark Dice, were among those to share the hashtag.

Image copyright Twitter

In a video posted on Twitter, right-wing author and commentator Mike Cernovich accused CNN of "extortion", and "doxxing" - the publication of private or identifying information about individuals on the internet.

Cernovich has been described as the "meme mastermind of the alt-right" and was instrumental in spreading false claims about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US election.

Responding to criticism from Cernovich, Kaczynski tweeted that the broadcaster "specifically chose not to reveal the guy's identity and to say we threatened anyone is a total lie".

Though CNN had attempted to contact HanSolo, Kaczynski says the broadcaster had not spoken to him before an apology was issued.

"HanSolo posted his apology before we ever spoke to him," he said.

"He called us afterwards to apologise further."

Kaczynski said he had spoken to HanSolo and that the former Reddit user agreed that he had not been threatened by Kaczynski or CNN.

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Rumours circulating on social media had suggested that the user was a 15-year-old, but Kaczynski denies this.

"It's not true," he told the BBC in a Twitter exchange.

He subsequently tweeted: "Correcting misinformation. HanSolo is an adult and not 15 which people have spread."

By the BBC's UGC and Social News team

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