Hulk Hogan Defines Modern Journalism With Massive Win In Privacy Suit Against Gawker
May 19, 2016
In a landmark decision, a Florida jury has decided to award Hulk Hogan, also known by his birth name of Terry Bollea, with $140 million in damages brought on by a private video going public at the hands of Gawker Media.
Gawker, founded by Nick Denton, published a personal video featuring Hogan without the retired wrestler’s permission, resulting in a maelstrom of media attention and outraged fans. Bollea denied any knowledge of the video in the first place, claiming through his lawyer that the publication was simply “morbid and sensational prying.”
Kenneth G. Turkel, a lawyer on the Hogan team, continued by saying that the site’s editors had failed in their duties of proper journalistic practice, asking the courts why the media site didn’t even warn Hogan about the publishing of the story, let alone ask his permission before posting the obviously personal moments between the wrestling personality and friend ‘Bubba The Love Sponge’ Clem’s wife.
Gawker countered with an attempt to argue the publication was well within its First Amendment Rights, citing previous coverage of the Hulkster chatting with Howard Stern about his personal sex life. According to Gawker defense lawyer Michael Sullivan, when Mr. Bollea spoke about his personal life on a very public stage, he essentially relinquished his right to privacy. This, in conjunction with the First Amendment supposedly protecting Gawker with journalistic independence, allowed the online media agency to publish the sex-tape of Hulk Hogan as a special interest to the public.
“He has chosen to seek the spotlight. He has consistently chosen to put his private life out there. [Uncovering the activities of public figures] is what journalists do, and at the end of the day it’s what we want journalists to do.”
Unfortunately for Gawker, the jury didn’t buy it.
Hogan was awarded $55 million for economic harm and a further $60 million for emotional distress. Punitive damages are set to be defined separately, but Gawker is already voicing their intent to appeal the court’s decision. Although the media company says they feel “confident” they will ultimately win the case, they may have to prove they have the finances to continue their game of judicial gambling. If the courts demand Gawker’s currently private financial specifics, the company could face even further ruin amidst rumours former editor Daulerio has been harbouring profits in an offshore bank account to avoid taxation.