(CN) – Gawker founder Nick Denton defended his gossip website and the 2012 Hulk Hogan sex tape post Tuesday, contending that in the final analysis “the public’s right to know trumps privacy.”
The former wrestling star – whose given name is Terry Bollea – sued Gawker, Denton and former editor A.J. Daulerio for invasion of privacy after the media-gossip blog published excerpts of a sex tape featuring the wrestler and the former wife of Bollea’s then-best friend Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem.
Many have suggested Bollea’s $100 million lawsuit could bankrupt Denton’s company if the case goes against it.
But Denton, a former Financial Times reporter who created Gawker Media in 2002, continued to maintain the gossip website pulls no punches with celebrities and other public figures.
During questioning by Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan, Denton stressed he did not play a role in approving the Hulk Hogan sex tape post and did not see the video or commentary before publication. Still, Denton stood behind the post and said it “stood the test of time.”
“[Gawker editor Daulerio] made a contrast between an American icon and the man behind that American icon,” he said. “And he made a more general, and to some extent, sort of self-critical, self-mocking point about the public obsession with celebrity sex tapes and his own interest in them.”
Denton also supported the use of video excerpts – a must for a young audience expecting multimedia content supporting news stories, he said.
“No picture, no story,” he said, later adding, “Yes, people are doubtful until you show them, you can’t just tell.”
Denton held up well under cross-examination, deflecting harsh, almost ridiculing, questions by Bollea attorney Ken Turkel and providing more nuance and context to his previous deposition answers.
In an attempt to show Denton’s hypocrisy, Turkel brought up the publisher’s request for guests at his wedding to turn in phones during the occasion a few years ago.
“And people did still take pictures of the event,” Denton interrupted. He added, with a smirk, “We asked and we didn’t sue people who broke the rules.”
At one point, Turkel instructed Denton to read some of the more explicit paragraphs of the sex tape post, which the Gawker founder did in his Oxford-educated, British accent.
“Did you give any consideration as to whether the publication of that pornography would embarrass this man,” Turkel asked Denton, referring to Bollea.
“I think doing the job of a journalist would be unbearable if one was always to put oneself in the shoes of the subject,” Denton answered.
Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times photo pool.
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