If I understand this BuzzFeed analysis correctly, the answer is “sort of yes, sort of no.” The original GIF posted on Reddit is unavailable for comparison with the one Trump posted, but it sounds like Trump’s GIF did use footage taken directly from the Reddit one. Scroll down about a quarter of the way in the BuzzFeed piece and you’ll see a screencap where “HanAssholeSolo” (the Redditor who made the original GIF) claims that the movement of the CNN logo in Trump’s GIF precisely tracks the movement in his own. It seems someone did in fact lift the video from Reddit and then spiced it up a bit with sound, different framing, and so on. Think of it as … a “presidential” remix.
Pausing to re-read that last paragraph, I realize I sound like Jerry Seinfeld analyzing the magic loogie.
Anyway. “HanAssholeSolo” provided the footage, apparently, but he didn’t make the exact GIF that Trump tweeted. Who did? And why didn’t CNN focus on that guy since he almost certainly has some direct connection to the president, unlike the rando whom the network considered doxxing?
Someone downloaded the GIF that HanAssholeSolo originally posted to Reddit. Then that person cropped it to better fit a video player like Facebook or YouTube. Then they went through the effort of syncing it back up with audio from the original clip. Then that person put it somewhere where Trump or one of Trump’s people could see it and download it. Then whoever found the video version had to get it to Trump’s phone…
There are only a few ways a video can get into an iPhone’s camera roll.
Basically, someone sent it to the president via a private messaging app like WhatsApp, iMessage, or just simple texting. Or it was emailed to him and he downloaded the video as an attachment.
It’s almost certainly Dan Scavino, right? He’s Trump’s “social media director”; his tweets on his own account are often as pugnacious and embattled as Trump’s are; and most importantly he apparently has posting privileges on Trump’s own Twitter account (which dates back to during the campaign). I’m skeptical that Trump would know how to upload a video to Twitter even if it was texted to him. Scavino would know how, though. He probably saw the GIF on Reddit, thought it’d be viral gold if he spruced it up, then showed it to Trump. It may even be that Scavino originally intended the GIF for his own Twitter account but Trump liked it so much that he encouraged him to post it on the presidential feed. What a glorious punchline that would be, if so: Even Scavino may have thought the GIF was beneath the dignity of the office until Trump surprised him by disagreeing.
There’s another mystery, though. Did CNN mean to threaten the Redditor in its piece last night (“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change”) or was it an unfortunate misunderstanding? BuzzFeed’s on that too:
Internally, some in CNN say that they recognize that the “reserve the right to publish” line makes the piece sound hostile, when they had initially hoped it would address that there was no deal with HanAssholeSolo to withhold his name.
“All we intended to make clear is that there was no agreement about revealing or not revealing his identity,” said a CNN executive.
The line was added into the story during the editing process, two sources with knowledge of the story said. “Someone did it as a safeguard and it backfired,” said one CNN source.
Glenn Greenwald’s correct that “reserve the right” sounds like lawyer language, not something you’d typically see from journalists. In context, though, I don’t know how that line can mean what CNN claims it means. Remember, the paragraph right before that in the story was all about the “ugly behavior” the Redditor had engaged in and how profusely sorry he now was for it. All of that was, or should have been, superfluous to the network’s decision to name him or not. They could have said they were withholding his identity out of concerns for his safety and left it at that.
As it is, and ironically given the backlash on the right today, I think they bent over backward to emphasize his contrition and the fact that they might still doxx him in the future if he doesn’t behave because they were afraid the left would attack them if they didn’t explain themselves. With good reason: As I said in the earlier post, many a liberal on social media today can’t see what the fuss is about that a tool who’s posted anti-semitic memes online might have been threatened with outing by a major news company. It’s just desserts, basic accountability. If CNN had withheld his name only because it was afraid for his safety, those same people would have wanted to know why a slug like that should enjoy the media’s protection. Andrew Kaczynski and/or CNN’s editors might have anticipated that backlash and tried to deal with it proactively by stressing that he’s reaaaaalllllly sorry and if he does it again we totally reserve the right to blow him up. They should have either named him or not named him and owned it either way. Instead, this.