All those Donald Trump supporters who are claiming that CNN coerced Reddit user “HanA” by threatening to reveal his identity are 100% correct.
In New York, for example, it is a crime to force someone to do something by threatening them with public humiliation. (NY Pen. Law Sec. 135.60.)
Here’s part of the statement that CNN published, bold added for emphasis:
“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.”
CNN denies they illegally coerced “HanA” because, according to them, he apologized before they contacted him and not in response to any threat of theirs.
Unfortunately, for CNN, that is irrelevant, at least as far as the law of New York State goes. A threat is a threat, whether it is to force someone to do something or whether it is to prevent someone from doing something.
Under New York law, a defendant is guilty of coercion:
“...when he or she compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he or she has a legal right to engage...”
In other words, while forcing “HanA” to apologize by threatening to reveal his identity is a crime, so is threatening to reveal his identity if he “repeated his ugly behavior on social media.”
CNN itself admits that “HanA” was terrified of his identity being publicly revealed:
“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’s threat to publicly embarrass “HanA” and his family if he posts something on social media that CNN disapproves of is a classic example of coercion. What CNN did was both legally wrong and absolutely disgusting. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is the way the mafia acts, not a respected American news organization.
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Less than a week ago, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski revealed that the Trump White House had allegedly made an effectively identical threat: Apologize to President Trump for your negative coverage or the National Enquirer will publish embarrassing details about your personal relationship.
Assuming what Scarborough and Brzezinski say is true – and they claim they’ve got the texts and phone records to prove it – what the Trump White House did is just as despicable as what CNN did. You cannot condemn one without condemning the other.
Yes, at a minimum, CNN owes a groveling apology to “HanA.” But fair is fair. If that’s the case, the Trump administration owes one to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. We can go a long way toward fixing the current political train wreck in this country just by condemning bad behavior wherever we find it.
We need to stop making excuses for aberrant behavior, even if it is aberrant behavior from “our” side, whether it is a Democrat posing with the President’s severed head or a Republican defending some foul and demeaning tweet from the President.
Decency and fairness aren’t partisan things. They are American things.