CNN employees and their families are receiving death threats and other harassing messages on social media and through phone calls, as President Trump's feud with the network continues to escalate this week, according to a report Thursday.
The Daily Beast reported that the parents and wife of Andrew Kaczynski, a CNN investigative reporter behind a story describing how the network tracked down the Reddit user who created the Trump wrestling GIF, has received around 50 harassing phone calls. Trump tweeted out that GIF over the July 4th weekend.
More intimidating messages have been sent to other members of the investigatory unit of which Kaczynski is a part, the K-File. The report notes the messages likely originate from Trump supporters.
"The only thing I worry about is somebody getting hurt," a CNN insider told the Daily Beast. "These far-right trolls are really threatening people and coming after people. Somebody's gonna do something stupid at some point."
Some CNN critics have criticized Kaczynski's story because he left the door open to publishing the Reddit user's name. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, even alleged CNN may have committed extortion.
In the story, Kaczynski wrote that CNN is not publishing the name of the Reddit user, known as HanA**holeSolo's, "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," Kaczynski wrote.
But the story also included a caveat, saying "CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change."
The news website Gizmodo reported that Kaczynski did not personally write that line, which principally provoked the backlash.
Gizmodo said the passage was written by a CNN executive as a "defensive measure" to explain their decision not to publish the Reddit user's name.
CNN has denied allegations of coercion and released a statement saying it ultimately decided not to publish the Reddit user's name "out of concern for his safety."
In an interview Wednesday with the New York Times, CNN President Jeff Zucker defended recent attacks against CNN, and vowed to not be intimidated by Trump.
"He's trying to bully us, and we're not going to let him intimidate us," he said. "You can't lose your confidence and let that change the way you conduct yourselves."