Could Hulk Hogan Bring Down Gawker?

Photo: Courtesy of Erik Pendzich/REX Shutterstock.
In less than a month, two prizefighters will go head-to-head in an ideological battle over a sex tape. The opponents are celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan and media-gossip company Gawker. The subject of their feud is video of Hogan having sex with his buddy Bubba the Love Sponge's wife — which Gawker unrepentantly obtained, edited, and published back in 2012. Now, the Hulk is suing, and if he wins, it could be really bad news for the site.

A report this morning by Capital placed the odds — at least for the first round, before appeals — in Hogan's favor, alleging that Gawker CEO Nick Denton, a "gay European founder of a Manhattan media gossip blog that published pornography for pageviews," will not fall favorably among jurors in Pinellas County, FL, Hogan's hometown and the site of the trail.

Hogan's team is seeking $100 million in damages. Gawker certainly doesn't have that kind of cash laying around. Capital's Peter Sterne writes that a loss could force Denton to sell off the site.

Denton does seem concerned. Just after Capital's article was published, Denton released a Kinja post in which he wrote, "I told the company all-hands last week, in an average year, the chance of disaster, some conjunction of events that would compromise the company’s independence and journalistic purpose, is about 1 in 50. I’m going to reuse a phrase from that meeting. We are currently at heightened risk levels. If you want a number: internally, we reckon about 1 in 10."

Gawker is resolute that it will not remove the footage from its site. "I have a simple editorial litmus test, which is: is it true, and is it interesting? The interest in is in proportion to the gap between the story that a brand or a celebrity brand is telling and the reality," Denton told Capital.

Yes, it would be silly to ignore that most often, courts find in favor of the press. Hogan is a very public figure who has been known to broadcast explicit details of his sex life, so a suit for "invasion of privacy," may not hold up. If we had to guess, we'd say that in the end, after a boatload of legal fees, Gawker will live to publish people's sex tapes another day.
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