The Internet and Republicans have joined together to denounce CNN for their perceived threat towards a Reddit user who posted a wrestling meme that was later posted by U.S. President Donald Trump on his personal Twitter. Texas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz went as far as to say CNN could be guilty of extortion for threatening to publish the identity of the user who posted the meme. “If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker’s IP it’s a [Georgia] crime if they threatened to ‘Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule,” wrote Cruz on Twitter, citing Georgia’s extortion laws. Cruz was a former professor at the University of Texas School of Law, and served as the state’s solicitor general.
(2/2) it's a GA crime if they threatened to "Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule…." https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
In the original CNN piece detailing their tracking of the man behind the creation of the CNN takedown meme, which showed Trump wrestling someone with the network’s logo, CNN said that they reserved the right to reveal the identity of the person if he was found guilty of other “ugly behavior”, according to CNN’s standards. CNN says that they decided against revealing the identity in large part because of the user’s extensive apology written on Reddit and his reaching out to the news organization to explain himself.
In addition to Cruz’s assertion that CNN is potentially guilty of extortion, Internet users began supporting a #CNNBlackmail campaign, which began trending quickly on Twitter. Some took a sarcastic tone when talking about CNN’s actions, like The Daily Caller‘s David Hookstead, who wrote, “When we look back over American history, there will be several moments that stand out as defining days where American exceptionalism shined through. D-Day, the Civil War, the race to the moon and now [CNN] performing an investigative task that could be done by just about any 10-year old with access to a computer.” CNN came out with a statement saying, “Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him is false. The user, who is an adult male… apologized and deleted his account before ever speaking with our reporter. CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user.”