Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton was called to testify on Monday and Tuesday in the $100 million lawsuit brought by Terry Bollea, better known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.
Bollea is suing Gawker over a blog post, written by A. J. Daulerio and published in 2012, which included clips from a video tape of Bollea having sex with Heather Clem, then the wife of Bollea’s friend, radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge.
Since Bollea first took issue with the post, Gawker has been firm in its stance that it was within its First Amendment rights to publish the story.
Denton backed that stance in his testimony, as quoted by The Hollywood Reporter: “With the benefit of hindsight, I believe it stands the test of time.”
When asked about the need for the post to include parts of the video itself, Denton said that “[younger audiences] expect there will be accompanying illustration, proof of what the writer is saying.” Denton claimed that pictures are “essential” to communicating to today’s audiences and cited the fall of the Berlin wall as an example of how imagery could define a new story.
You weren’t comparing the sex tape story w the fall of Berlin Wall, were you?
Denton went on to defend the story as newsworthy and noted that, because the post was marked as “not safe for work,” it did not include advertising. As a result, any traffic on the sex tape story would not spell direct financial gain for the site.
Bollea attorney Kenneth Turkel (no relation to the author) asked Denton a number of questions that seemed to be aimed at the site’s philosophy. Denton described the site’s policy as “Is it true? Is it interesting? And check with legal,” according to Tampa Bay Times reporter Anna Phillips.
Phillips’ live-tweeted account of Denton’s Tuesday testimony also revealed that comments made by the CEO in a 2013 interview came under scrutiny. Denton reportedly regretted the interview’s headline: “Gawker’s Nick Denton Explains Why Invasion of Privacy Is Positive for Society,” which reflected comments he made in the interview:
THR: Gawker has been accused of invading people’s privacy on many occasions, from George Clooney complaining about “Gawker Stalker” to the Hulk Hogan sex tape.
Denton: Just once in a while, I think it’s worthwhile to take stock and recognise that the supposed invasion of privacy has incredibly positive effects on society. It has.
Denton was asked to read excerpts of Daulerio’s post in court, but cited the fact that “we are talking about it now” as evidence of its importance.
Permitted to submit their own questions, a juror asked Denton if the First Amendment would protect the video of Bollea if it were “gratuitous.” Denton said that it would not.
Gawker is the high-brow gossip sheet covering media, entertainment, politics and technology.
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