UPDATED 5:47 p.m. EST, May 25: A judge denied today Gawker Media's request for a retrial in the sex tape case that awarded Hulk Hogan $140 in damages. Judge Pamela Campbell also denied the request to reduce the penalty, according to WFTS Tamba Bay. Gawker issued a statement, saying:
We look forward to the legal process continuing and expect to be vindicated. Just days after Gawker MEdia's site Gizmodo exposed that Facebook's news section has suppressed certain points of view, we've now learned that a Facebook board member and a major funder of The Committee to Protect Journalists has been secretly funding a legal campaign against our journalists. There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefited and this case is far from over.
Original story below:
Less than a day after the New York Times quoted Gawker founder Nick Denton on his suspicions that Hulk Hogan's legal battle against his media company was being secretly funded by an unnamed billionaire, Forbes has outed the Silicon Valley tech CEO by name—and insinuated that maybe it's payback for when Gawker tried to out him in a very different way.
According to Forbes, anonymous sources close to Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel have revealed Thiel paid for Hogan's legal fees to sue Gawker over a sex tape featuring the ex-professional wrester banging the wife of his then-friend, radio host Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan was awarded a total of $140 million in that lawsuit (which Gawker has appealed). After that, Hogan filed another lawsuit against the company claiming that he was blackmailed over part of the tape that featured the Hulkster dropping the N-word.
So why would Thiel help Hogan launch a legal battle that could mean the end of Gawker if the company is ultimately forced to shell out that $140 million? Although Thiel hasn't commented on the story, Forbes points out that Gawker did publish a story headlined "Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay, People," before Thiel himself was open about his sexuality. Thiel is also a big supporter of Donald Trump, while Gawker has been particularly vicious in its attempts to humiliate the most Cheetos-colored of presidential candidates, although its far from the only media outlet to do that.
Thiel is worth a reported $2.8 billion. Aside from starting Paypal, his initial $500,000 investment in Facebook ended up being reportedly worth more than $700 million. There's nothing illegal or anything about a third party funding someone else's lawsuit. Although it's unknown what kind of arrangement Hogan could have made with Thiel if this is true, these situations are often handled like an investment, where the guy put up the money gets a piece of the winnings.
Gawker released a statement Wednesday about its appeal.
Thiel was said to have provided substantial contributions to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). That organization issued a statement toeing the line between Hulk Hogan's rights as a citizen and Gawker's rights as a publisher.
here's the statement from CPJ's Joel Simon about Peter Thiel's donations pic.twitter.com/njqQWplOvS— Steven Perlberg (@perlberg) May 25, 2016
A Florida judge released a decision Wednesday stating the original March verdict awarding Hulk Hogan $140 million stands. Judge Pamela Campbell said Gawker will not receive a new trial, according to the Associated Press.
UPDATED 1:24 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with a statement from CPJ and the decision from Judge Pamela Campbell.