CNN denies blackmailing Reddit user behind viral Trump meme

CNN issued a statement denying that its reporters blackmailed a Reddit user involved in the making of a viral anti-CNN meme after massive social media backlash Wednesday.

In the statement, the news network pushes back on reports from Donald TrumpDonald TrumpObama intel chief wonders if Trump is trying to make 'Russia great again' Trump Jr., Manafort reach deal to avoid public hearing next week House Intel panel to interview Kushner amid Russia probe MORE Jr. and others claiming it had "blackmailed" a 15-year-old Reddit user, saying in a statement that the user was an adult and that he had apologized before speaking with CNN.

"CNN decided not to publish the name of the Reddit user out of concern for his safety," a CNN spokesman told The Hill. "Any assertion that the network blackmailed or coerced him 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."

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In the story, CNN's original statement read:

"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 statement, particularly the last line, was picked up as evidence of "coercion" by President Trump's supporters and other journalists, who sharply criticized CNN for considering "doxing" the user.

In a statement, the spokesman denied CNN had made a "deal" with the Reddit user, and said the inclusion of the controversial statement in their piece was intended to show that no "deal" occurred.

"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."

The CNN reporter who reported the story claimed on Twitter Wednesday that he had been contacted by Solo after the publication of the piece, saying he was in "total agreement" with the story.