In the corner with the bandana we have Hulk Hogan, real-name Terry Bollea, a former wrestler and the man suing an ill-mannered news website which published a sex-tape of him and the wife of a Florida radio personality named Bubba the Love Sponge.
“Gawker believes this kind of reporting is important”, an attorney for the company, Mike Berry told jurors, explaining that celebrity sex tapes are among the “uncomfortable” topics important to the outlet, known for gossip and media reporting.
“Hogan vrs Gawker!” the wrestler posted on Twitter as jury selection got underway last week.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Gawker showed nine seconds of Hulk Hogan having sex with the wife of his best friend, Bubba the Love Sponge – who actually made the 30-minute tape and appears in it himself.
When the sex tape was filmed, Hogan was married to his then-wife Linda. It’s unclear who leaked the video to Gawker and other media, but some police reports claim it was a disgruntled producer on Bubba Clem’s radio show. Gawker contends that the post with the video of Hogan giving his best friend’s wife the third leg-drop is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Hogan also detailed the days of his family’s reality show, Hogan Knows Best, which aired on VH1 for four seasons, and admitted the show wasn’t truly “reality”.
During cross-examination, an attorney for Gawker questioned Hogan about inconsistencies in his testimony and media interviews.
Bollea also recalled Todd and Heather Clem’s persistent attempts to get him to have sex with Heather. Hogan said he was “violently shaking” when he learned that Clem was speaking about making a fortune from the tape.
Early on, Hogan copped not having many real friends inside wrestling; the two he mentioned were Jimmy Hart and, of course, “Brutus Beefcake”, whose real name is Ed Leslie.
Hogan said no, he wasn’t embarrassed.
“It gives you artistic liberty when you’re Hulk Hogan to be a character”, he added.
“I was pretty rocked”, he said about the video’s release.
“They knew what they were doing, but they didn’t care”. Hogan is seeking damages for emotional distress and for invasion of privacy.
A loss could put Gawker out of business, but Berlin confirmed that the website will appeal an unfavourable verdict, he said. With the amount Hulk Hogan is asking for, plus additional legal fees, Gawker may have to shut down all its sites, which includes the likes of Jezebel (women’s interests), Kotaku (video games) and Gizmodo (gadgets/tech), should they lose and have to pay in full. He further said that Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, and A.J. Daulerio, the website’s former editor, “knowingly and maliciously” published the content on their website to seek financial gain.
“The rest was conversation”, Berry said. “They wanted to inflict harm and they wanted to make money”. Advertisers don’t post ads on Gawker’s items that are labeled ‘NSFW, ‘ or ‘not safe for work’. It was a definite point in favor of Gawker, which is attempting to showcase its news operation as one that aims past a public figure’s public-relations varnish.