How CNN found the Reddit user behind the Trump wrestling GIF

(CNN)The Reddit user who initially claimed credit for President Donald Trump’s tweet that showed Trump tackling CNN issued an apology Tuesday for the video and other offensive content he posted — one day after CNN identified the man behind the account and attempted to make contact with him.

Reddit user “HanA**holeSolo” first shared the GIF last Wednesday of Trump pummeling a wrestler with CNN’s logo imposed on his face. CNN could find no earlier instance of the GIF. The GIF was later edited into a video with sound and tweeted by the President on Sunday.
On Reddit, “HanA**holeSolo” took credit for inspiring the tweet. Soon after, “HanA**holeSolo’s” other posts on Reddit, some of which included racist and anti-Semitic imagery, quickly circulated on social media.
    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.
    The apology came after CNN’s KFile identified the man behind “HanA**holeSolo.” Using identifying information that “HanA**holeSolo” posted on Reddit, KFile was able to determine key biographical details, to find the man’s name using a Facebook search and ultimately corroborate details he had made available on Reddit.
    On Monday, KFile attempted to contact the man by email and phone but he did not respond. On Tuesday, “HanA**holeSolo” posted his apology on the subreddit /The_Donald and deleted all of his other posts.
    “First of all, I would like to apologize to the members of the reddit community for getting this site and this sub embroiled in a controversy that should never have happened,” he wrote. “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 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. 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.”
    The user further apologized for calls for violence against the press in his statement on Reddit.
    “The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation,” he wrote. “I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more. What the President’s feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.”
    The apology has since been taken down by the moderators of /The_Donald subreddit.
    After posting his apology, “HanA**holeSolo” called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, “HanA**holeSolo” 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 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.
    After Trump tweeted the video on Sunday, “HanA**holeSolo” took to Reddit to say he was “honored,” writing “Holy s!! I wake up and have my morning coffee and who retweets my spost but the MAGA EMPORER himself!!! I am honored!!” MAGA is an acronym for the President’s campaign slogan: Make America great again.”
    In the phone interview on Tuesday, “HanA**holeSolo” said the White House did not ask his permission to use the GIF, and said he probably would have said no if they had.
    “I didn’t realize that post would be picked up the way it was, he said. “I should have never even said anything.”
    Trump has not issued an apology for the tweet, which he sent Sunday morning. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said on ABC’s This Week that “no one would perceive” the tweet as a threat.
    The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement this week that the tweet “undermines the work of the media in the U.S. and makes it more dangerous.” CNN said in a statement that the tweet “encourages violence against reporters.”
    On Monday, a senior administration official told CNN that the video was not pulled from Reddit. The White House still has not responded to a series of questions from CNN asking how the video ended up as a tweet from the President.
    “HanA**holeSolo” said about the President’s tweet, “I think they should have used their better judgment, since the President tweets things off the cuff, it’s a kneejerk reaction. I don’t feel that they should have posted something like that given the controversy going on between them and the media.”
    When asked specifically about his other posts that consisted of racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic language and imagery, he answered, “I love people of all races, creeds and origins. One of my best friends is a homosexual and one of my best friends is Jewish and one of my best friends is Muslim.”
    In his apology on Reddit, “HanA**holeSolo” sent a message to his fellow anonymous posters.
    “To people who troll on the Internet for fun, consider your words and actions conveyed in your message and who it might upset or anger,” he wrote. “Put yourself in their shoes before you post it. If you have a problem with trolling it is an addiction just like any other addiction someone can have to something and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Trolling is nothing more than bullying a wide audience. Don’t feed your own self-worth based upon inflicting suffering upon others online just because you are behind a keyboard.”

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