NEW YORK (AP) — CNN says safety concerns led to its decision not to reveal the identity of the man behind a doctored anti-CNN video. Yet the way the decision was explained and deep distrust of the network among President Donald Trump’s supporters provoked a backlash Wednesday.
The network said late Tuesday it had identified the Reddit user who originally posted an old WWE video of Trump “roughing up” pro wrestling maven Vince McMahon, superimposing the CNN logo over McMahon’s face. Trump tweeted a link to the video, with some modifications, and it has become the president’s most-shared social media post yet, according to Twitter.
Reporter Andrew Kaczynski said in an online story that CNN had found the Reddit user, who used the tag “HanA——Solo,” and reached out to him Monday. Before returning Kaczynski’s message the next day, the user posted a public apology for the Trump video — he called it a prank — and for some racist and anti-Semitic postings also made under that name. He said he was just trying to get a reaction and didn’t mean what he said, and was closing his Reddit account.
CNN said online that it had decided not to publish the user’s name because he is a private citizen who apologized, showed remorse and said he would not repeat his ugly behavior. “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change,” Kaczynski wrote.
That last sentence made CNN a target.
“That’s essentially blackmail,” wrote conservative activist Ben Shapiro. “That’s CNN stating that it will out the guy if he dares to defy their political perspective or offends them sufficiently.”
Such charges spread swiftly online. Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity shared another video on Twitter, this one showing a professional wrestler whose face was replaced with a Trump picture bashing several other men identified as “CNN” with a chair. “Is CNN going to blackmail this person, too?” Hannity asked.
CNN said Wednesday that it did not publish the user’s name out of concern for his safety, and that any claim that it tried to blackmail or coerce him was false. Kaczynski tweeted that the user told him he had not been threatened in any way.
CNN’s online critics, including Donald Trump Jr., claimed the Reddit user was a 15-year-old boy. CNN said he was an adult male and Kaczynski tweeted, “People claiming he’s 15 are wrong.”
The video sent out by Trump on Sunday morning had been retweeted more than 340,000 times by Wednesday morning. That passes Trump’s tweet the morning of last November’s election — “TODAY WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! — as his most-shared post, Twitter said.
CNN also received heat from another direction for its decision to withhold the user’s name.
There are many reasons to keep a name out of a story, said William Grueskin, a Columbia University professor. The person could be an abuse victim, a confidential witness whose life or job would be endangered, a source promised anonymity or a juvenile. The Reddit user “doesn’t appear to fit any of these categories,” he said.
“That puts a high expectation on other reporters, who are asked every day to withhold names and who don’t, for good reason,” he said. “Are others now supposed to engage in a negotiation with sources that illustrates moral probity and predicts future conduct?”
Indira Lakshmanan, an expert on journalism ethics for the Poynter Institute, said she has no problem with CNN finding out the user’s identity, since the person put his opinions in the public square and boasted about the president’s retweet. She said it’s more likely the user pleaded with CNN to have his name withheld out of fear than the network trying to blackmail him in any way.
Still, she said, the network could have explained its decision better and the “reserves the right” claim is unnecessarily problematic.
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s independent police review board says civilians are increasingly using video evidence in complaints against New York Police Department officers.
The Wall Street Journal reports (http://on.wsj.com/2t06bIw ) that 794 of the 4,426 complaints closed by the Civilian Complaint Review Board in 2016 included some form of video evidence. In 2012, there were just 43 closed complaints with video evidence out of 4,268.
The review board says recordings help increase transparency when examining cases of alleged police misconduct.
The First Amendment protects civilian recording. But officers can legally stop people who are endangering themselves or someone else while recording or interfering with police activity.
The board is recommending training for officers on the subject.
The New York Police Department declined to comment on the study.
This story has been corrected to show that the linked material is from The Wall Street Journal, not The New York Times.
Information from: The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com
ATLANTA (AP) — An Atlanta police officer is on administrative leave after a video surfaced that shows him punching a man in the head.
Video shows the officer punching the back of the man’s head at least three times while two other officers hold him down as the man screams “Stop! Stop!” A fourth officer stands nearby. Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta posted the video on its Facebook page June 23.
A spokesman for the organization says the arrest was made in the downtown area of Five Points. The organization is calling for criminal charges.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Atlanta Police said in statement the officer is currently on administrative leave and Chief Erika Shields will review the evidence to determine possible disciplinary actions.
The name of the officer has not been released.
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada man is safe after helicopter rescuers plucked him from a rock surrounded by swift-moving water above a nearly 50-foot waterfall in California.
California Highway Patrol Officer David White said Tuesday that 25-year-old Kalani Tuiono escaped from the frigid, snowmelt-choked Yuba River with minor scratches and scrapes on Saturday, an outcome that amazed rescuers.
Dramatic video shows Tuiono perched on a lone rock surrounded by rushing water, with the waterfall just below. Steep rock frames the river.
White says he was caught by the undertow and swept a mile downstream from Emerald Pools, a picturesque swimming hole known for its colorful water.
Auburn, California-based rescuers maneuvered above the falls, dropped down to him in a rescue basket and carried him to safety.