Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million In Sex Tape Lawsuit Against Gawker

Mar 19, 2016
Originally published on March 19, 2016 10:53 am
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A Florida jury has awarded the professional wrestler Hulk Hogan $115 million for invasion of privacy. Hogan filed the lawsuit after the news and gossip site Gawker posted an excerpt of a video showing him having sex with a friend's wife. NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The state jury actually awarded Hogan, given name Terry Bollea, more money than he asked for. The verdict came after testimony that veered from the surreal to the bizarre. Taped depositions from Gawker editors showed their hostility to almost any notion of privacy, with one mordantly joking that celebrity sex tapes would only not be newsworthy if they involve children under the age of 4.

Hogan had been taped having sex with the wife of a man he said was one of his best friends, a Florida-based DJ named Bubba The Love Sponge Clem. Hogan had publicly joked about his sexual prowess after it came to light, leading Gawker to argue it was in the public realm as a topic. Hogan sought to draw distinctions between what he had previously said publicly as Hulk and how he testified under oath as the person behind the wrestling persona.

Hogan said he had not given his consent to be taped and that he had been humiliated by Gawker's decision to post the video clip. The wrestling entertainment company WWE fired him after disclosures that he used racial epithets for black people on the tapes, but that wasn't because of the sexually explicit footage. Gawker says it will appeal. After another item backfired, founder Nick Denton claimed Gawker would become 20 percent nicer last summer. Denton also sold the minority stake of the company in January to an investment fund that is controlled by a Russian billionaire to secure its future.

Hogan has lost several related rulings in other courts over this tape. Major libel awards are often set aside or significantly reduced upon appeal, though this is not technically a libel case. It's also not clear what damages Hogan suffered as a direct result of Gawker's actions. Even should Hogan prevail, the case appears unlikely to set any First Amendment precedent against other media companies. Few are likely to post such a video in the first place. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.