The network’s rough week started on Sunday when President Trump jumpstarted controversy by tweeting a video that showed him body-slamming the CNN logo.
The tweet was met with widespread condemnation in the media, which resulted in the video being shown over and over again on national television.
But things got worse for CNN.
The network published a story on Tuesday night detailing how it tracked down the identity of an anonymous Reddit user who claimed credit for creating the video behind Trump’s tweet and had a history of making racist and anti-Semitic posts online. (It’s unclear, however, if Trump actually got the video directly from Reddit.)
The story said that CNN declined to identify the Reddit user because he was a private citizen and had apologized, but added: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change,” suggesting the network would identify the user, HanAssholeSolo, if he made offensive posts online again.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
Both CNN and the reporter who wrote the story, Andrew Kaczynski, became the center of an online firestorm after journalists on both left and right called foul on what appeared to be a threat against the anonymous Reddit user. Kaczynski appears to have caught the short end of the stick, as the controversial line was reportedly added into his story by a CNN executive following an internal debate on whether or not to name the user.
The hashtag #CNNBlackmail shot to the top of Twitter’s trending topics. News aggregator Matt Drudge made the story the lead of his website, The Drudge Report, all day on Wednesday, guaranteeing further scrutiny of the network’s story.
Kaczynski and others had their personal info leaked and were targeted for harassment by online trolls, a CNN source said. The network’s employees have reportedly taken steps to protect themselves in the wake of the online targeting and are frustrated that Donald Trump Jr. spread the myth that the Reddit user was a 15-year-old boy.
Online trolls on Wednesday and Thursday flooded the network’s iPhone app with negative reviews, quickly dragging it down to a one-star rating. Many of the negative reviews made references to the network’s coverage of the Reddit user.
Weekly ratings posted on Thursday by TV Newser brought more bad news for CNN, as the network slid to #13 in cable TV rankings, two spots behind children’s television program Nick-At-Nite.
That same day, President Trump bashed CNN while speaking to reporters in Poland.
“I think what CNN did is unfortunate for them. As you know they have some pretty serious problems. They have been fake news for a long time. They have been covering me in a very, very dishonest way.
What CNN did – and what others did, NBC is equally as bad despite the fact that I made them a fortune with ‘The Apprentice’ but they forgot that,” the president said.
“What I will say is that CNN has really taken it too seriously and I think they’ve hurt themselves very badly, very, very badly.”
Some CNN guests and analysts predicted that Trump wouldn’t bring up Russian meddling in the election during his one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin on Friday. That turned out to be the opposite of what happened, as Trump is reported to have pressed Putin on the subject during their meeting that ran hours longer than expected.
The good news for CNN: there’s always next week.