Gawker was ordered to pay former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan $115 million after losing a jury trial case over showing a sex tape of him and a friend’s wife, Heather Clem.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker over its 2012 publication of an excerpt of a video tape of Hogan and Clem having sex. Gawker defended the publication as newsworthy and accurate. Hogan said he didn’t know he was being recorded.
“The case, which pitted freedom of the press against a celebrity’s right to privacy, has been closely watched,” the BBC reported.
As the Guardian reported: “In October 2012 Gawker published just under two minutes of footage from the 30-minute sex tape they received from an anonymous source, accompanied by some sharp-toothed commentary and a play-by-play of the full tape from [Gawker’s Albert] Daulerio, the editor at the time.” The video has been removed from Gawker’s website but the commentary remains.
Hogan had called for Gawker to unpublish the coverage but Gawker refused so he sued for invasion of privacy.
The Hollywood Reporter called it “a first-of-its-kind case where discussions of newsworthiness and decency dominated.”
Gawker CEO Nick Denton said, according to the Hollywood Reporter: “Given key evidence and the most important witness were both improperly withheld from this jury, we all knew the appeals court will need to resolve the case.” Heather Clem’s then-husband, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem [real name: Todd Alan Clem], who set up the video recorder, refused to testify.
Hogan went on: “I want to thank our lawyers for their outstanding work and am confident that we would have prevailed at trial if we had been allowed to present the full case to the jury. That’s why we feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately.”
iMediaEthics has written to Gawker and Hogan’s lawyers for comment on the verdict.
Hogan’s lawyer said after the verdict, according to CNN, that Hogan “is exceptionally happy. This is not only his victory today, but also anyone else who’s been victimized by tabloid journalism.”