In May 2016, the website Jezebel reported claims that a self-help organization called Superstar Machine is a cult and its leader Gregory Scherick “preyed on insecure women and controlled their lives.” Now, Scherick is suing and the suit is getting attention because of its connection to the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that bankrupted Jezebel‘s parent company, Gawker.
As iMediaEthics readers likely remember, Hulk Hogan sued Gawker for publishing excerpts of his sex tape. Gawker lost the case, and had to file for bankruptcy. Univision ended up buying most of Gawker’s sister sites in Aug. 2016, including Jezebel, and renamed the group Gizmodo Media Group. Gawker.com itself shut down. The May 2016 article Scherick is suing over was published months before Jezebel was sold, and the lawyer suing on Scherick’s behalf, Charles Harder, is the same one who sued Gawker for Hogan.
The case was filed Sept. 7 in Manhattan Supreme Court against Gizmodo Media Group, the reporter on the story and the editor-in-chief of Jezebel at the time, according to the New York Post. Scherick’s lawsuit denies the group is a cult and claims he lost 70 percent of his business because of the article, the Huffington Post reported. iMediaEthics has written to Harder to ask for a copy of the lawsuit.
Jezebel‘s article, by Anna Merlan, was published May 10, 2016, and is headlined, “Inside Superstar Machine, which Ex-Members Say is a Cult Preying on New York’s Creative Women.” It reported on interviews with former members about their experience in Superstar Machine.
iMediaEthics contacted Univision, which pointed us to a statement from Gizmodo Media Group, noting that the story was published before Gizmodo Media Group bought Jezebel and should have been dealt with before Gawker went bankrupt. The statement reads in full,
“This case is nothing more than another obvious attempt by Charles Harder to intimidate journalists. The story in question was published on May 10, 2016—months before our acquisition of certain Gawker Media assets, including Jezebel. Any litigation over the story should have been brought against Gawker Media in bankruptcy court—not against Gizmodo Media Group or the individual writers. We believe this suit is meritless and we plan to contest it vigorously.”