Hulk Hogan‘s $100 million civil trial agains Gawker Media kicked off yesterday, with the pro-wrestler’s lawyers arguing that the media company sought to do him harm when they published a 1,400 word account of his sex tape back in 2012.
In the piece – accompanied by a 1 minute 40 second edit of the tape, btw, which included nine seconds of sex – Gawker described how Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) banged the wife of his good mate, Tampa, Florida radio shock jock Bubba “The Love Sponge” Clem, Heather Clem, during which The Love Sponge was occasionally present.
They’re arguing that Hogan’s willingness to talk about his sex life made the video in the public interest, and therefore protected under the first amendment.
“Hulk Hogan was more than willing to talk about his sex life – including in two autobiographies, a reality TV series and Howard Stern’s radio show – until he didn’t like what Gawker had to say,” they said in a statement on Monday. “Now he wants $100 million as compensation.”
And in court, company attorney Mike Berry – who’s defending former Gawker editor A.K. Daulerio, who published the piece, and Gawker founder Nick Denton – called this type of reporting “important”.
“Gawker believes this kind of reporting is important,” he said. “It is important for writers to be able to address uncomfortable subjects – whether the subject is mental health, whether the subject is drugs, whether the subject is celebrity sex tapes.”
He’s also trying to prove it’s newsworthiness by pointing to Hogan creating himself in the image of an “American hero”, who claimed in his autobiography that he was “not the cheating kind”.
Hogan, when asked by his attorney Kenneth Turkel, explained that ‘Hulk Hogan’ is merely a character.
“Terry Bollea’s a normal person,” he said. “Wrestling is my job. It’s what Terry Bollea does for a living.”
His lawyers presented the jury with internal memos highlighting Gawker’s focus on traffic, and a chart that indicated a traffic spike in October 2012, when the tape was published.
They also presented internal staff chats showing Gawker staff members mocking Hogan.
“What we’re going to prove to you is that they intended to harm him,” said attorney Shane Vogt.
“The motivation here wasn’t some higher public purpose. It wasn’t the truth. It was money. It was power.”
Photo: Ronald Martinez / Getty.