Nick Denton fires back: We will win on appeal because Hulk is a racist (pretty much)

Yes, that's a TL;DR headline but I'm trying to sum up the argument that I just read over at Gawker - and I had a feeling he would pull this, I called it a week ago. Nick Denton the puppet-master behind the Gawker media gossip blogs, is apparently the kind of guy who kicks you in the balls when you've knocked him down. Barking up a storm in his post The Hogan Verdict, he attempts an impressive DARVO move trying to pin all of this fail on Hulk Hogan himself. DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender." and is a classic reaction that perpetrators display when they are held accountable for their behaviour. Nick Denton states:

Hogan did not sue us, as he has claimed, to recover damages from the emotional distress he purportedly experienced upon our revelation in 2012 of a sexual encounter with his best friend’s wife, Heather Cole (then Heather Clem). It turns out this case was never about the sex on the tape Gawker received, but about racist language on another, unpublished tape that threatened Hogan’s reputation and career.

First of all, this is irrelevant. Hogan's motives for the suit have no bearing on the suit which was about an invasion of privacy, and as his lawyers argued caused emotional harm to Terry Bollea. Second of all Nick Denton is not a mind reader, and can thus not actually know the motives Hulk Hogan may have had to file suit. He's assuming, which we all can do. If he assumes a leaked 'racist rant' tape is the real motive he first needs to prove that Hogan was aware of this tape being made, and that he was aware that Gawker had it. This audio was under a court order sealed by a judge, in this Hulk vs Gawker trial, yet somehow mysteriously leaked out. Is Nick admitting Gawker were the ones who leaked the tape to The National Enquirer who published it? Because I too can play that assume-game. Hulk Hogan's contract with WWE was terminated as soon as the tape was made public. So if Gawker had anything to do with that, Hulk should consider suing them again.

Now, there are several publications on the web who feel that the Hulk Hogan suit is a first amendment issue, Techdirt is one of them. They write, to point out that the role of the courts is not to be some sort of News Editor:

But... the First Amendment remains. It's kind of insane, in the first place, that there even was a trial at all on the question of "how newsworthy" the tape was. Whether or not you or I think running the tape is appropriate, the fact remains that courts should never be determining if something is newsworthy.

True that. But the courts weren't deciding whether anything was newsworthy, they were looking at invasion of privacy. Hypothetically a Catholic Priest who lobbies against gay marriage yet is caught with his pants down with a choir boy, that's a newsworthy story and... it can be told without publishing the sex tape! Just like when Carol Burnett won over The Enquirer, the courts weren't saying that rags can't gossip about celebrities, but they were looking at "actual malice" in the fact that the rag went out of their way to print shit they knew were lies. The first amendment isn't hurt by the fact that the press need to have an editorial process of fact checking, and should stay out of peoples secretly taped bedroom antics. (As a side note, the Court also found that the National Enquirer did not qualify as a "newspaper" - so Gawker might wanna watch their step with this FREDOOM OF THE PRESS RAH-RAH defense since they were never considered "press" by anyones standards.)

Hulk Hogan talks about the trial in an interview with the New York Post. In it he tells of his reaction to some of the testimony.

“They think that just because you have Facebook or Twitter, you crossed the line between normal person to celebrity status.​ ​So that means anyone who has anything to do with social media is fair game.

He said that as he heard their testimony during the trial, “I started having, like Oprah has, these ‘aha’ moments. … Everybody’s a celebrity,’ I thought. ‘Oh, my God, they’re gunning for everybody. Everybody is fair game. And then 4-year-olds, too?’”

Well, yes, as Max Read said - and resigned over - "Given the chance Gawker will always report on...." - bedroom antics of anyone, basically.

The people whose private bits we've seen too much of on Gawker have included a random pair of ad agency workers, a college girl who was raped in a bathroom stall, and if Albert J. Daulerio has his way anyone is game except children under the age of four. In GQ magazine interview Albert J. Daulerio was dubbed 'The Worldwide Leader in Sextapes'. He describes paying $12,000 (Gawkers cash) for a blurry photo of someones crotch - while the court in Florida knows he personally has no assets, only $27,000 in student debt. You'd think that at some point while handling that kind of money for cock-shots one might think "what the hell am I doing with my life?"

Before posting the photos and voice mails, Daulerio argued with Gawker's lawyer and chief operating officer, Gaby Darbyshire, over legal exposure. "She's like, 'You're willing to go to jail for this? It's just a dong shot,' " Daulerio recalls. "And I'm like, 'It's fucking Brett Favre's cock shot.' So yeah. If Brett Favre sued or [the pictures] were subpoenaed—I don't think they'd send me to jail for that, but given the choice, sure."

Well, they fined Albert J. Daulerio $100,000 instead of sending him to jail, and it's entirely possible that the amount due can be lowered on appeal. Hulk Hogan thinks these guys should get some perspective - perhaps the jury idea of community service could have helped Albert J. Daulerio get some.

“I don’t know if [Daulerio, who posted the video a​s Gawker’s editor in chief​] really understands how wrong he is. I think some type of experience, if this trial didn’t humble him, then maybe picking up trash on the side of the road might.’’

Gawker birthed their own version of yellow press "if it's true we publish", they say. But they're not going undercover with Mexican drug cartels. They're not interviewing rebels in Syria. They're not whistleblowing Russian Federal Security Service, the KGB, and being fed radioactive poison for it. They are not exposing the people responsible for the Flint water crisis.
They're just digging through the seedy underbelly of the internet, paying crack-dealers $200,000 for cellphone videos and stalkers $12,000 for blurry dong pics. Oh, and they crowd-source you to help - via your clicks and a literal kickstarter. The Gawker brand is bullying, it always has been and it won't change. You remember high school, don't you? You can hang with the bullies on the cool table if you want, but it's only a matter of time until they turn on you.

By the way, The Hogan lawyers have stated that after viewing the three DVD's there was no racist language contained therein. Someone is fibbing, and I guess the appeal will show us who.

The image at the top of this article is a screendump from when Gawker outed NYC gun owners and Fox News retaliated by exposing Nick Denton's email and phone number. Previous Gawker vs Hulk Hogan news on adland as follows:

Gawker is Toxic to brands who partner with them Oct 26 2014
Gawker brought back Bullying - then removes post against editorial staff's wishes 18 July 2015
Sex, Wrestling and Mussolini: Gawker's Toxic Anti-Journalism Needs To Stop 11 March 2016
Jury awards Hulk Hogan 115 million in Gawker trial 18th March 2016
Hulk Hogan vs Gawker trial: yelling "racist" at the top of your lungs is not a defense. 17th March 2016
The Associated Press et al file to unseal all judicial records in Hulk vs Gawker trial 22 Mar 2016
Hulk Hogan vs Gawker trial: Total damages now $140.1 million 22 March 2016

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patches's picture

Was I reading that Nick denton rant wrong, or did he pretty much admit to violating (yet another) court order and releasing the tape under seal in order to damage Hogan? Wow! Do denton's lawyers still work for him after he published that piece? Because I think mine would have walked on me, should I ever do something so narcsisitically stupid and against legal interests.

Kek the Smeck's picture

I am in utter stupifed awe at Denton's case and how easily it can be broken. Not to mention that they really are approaching an appeal like this. I take no pleasure on killing a weak opinion but gawker makes me think an exception is coming.

Dabitch's picture

Someone posted this as a reply to us on twitter. In 2004 a writer named John Lee from posted an article on Alternet arguing that Denton's Gawker empire was a racist institution.

Denton has mapped out a route for monetizing the blog world in short order. It is a strategy to provoke outrage and publicity by taking the piss out of celebrities and luminaries of New York and DC. And I don't have any problem with that. It's just that these sites have decided that one way to telegraph their supreme coolness is to continually joke about non-whites as marginalized second-class citizens. It's this casual, damaging disregard that is hard to quantify, and yet, Gawker and Wonkette exemplify the growing phenomenon of white hipsters adopting a casual racism. Is it any wonder so many still feel blogging's a white man's sport?

Sixclaws's picture

I really, really miss it when Alternet was a Liberal, albeit a centered news site instead of the Gluten-free Salon joke that is today..

Gawker will win's picture

They're going to win on appeal because the tapes that the judge sealed will show that Terry Bollea knew he was being taped. This information was withheld from the jury. This is a first amendment problem and it was fair use of Gawker to use the footage when they had it.

Dabitch's picture


I'm not a lawyer, but I play one on this site. If Terry Bollea knew he was being taped, and that tape was rights secured by Gawker for publication, where's the model release? Anything else is The Fappening, you know when J-Lo's nude photographs leaked out onto the web she was aware that she was being photographed, that was spank-bank material for her then boyfriend. The copyright would be owned by the photographer (either the boyfriend or J-lo, I'm not sure if they were selfies), but for publication the model rights need to be secured as well. Oh, and if you're producing adult content such as documenting sexually explicit acts on film, you gotta keep a record of everyone and their contracts at the ready when you start distributing that film. That's not your argument, is it? I didn't think so.

Don't forget Florida has a revenge porn law against "sexual cyberharassment", and while that won't apply retroactively in Terry Bollea's case, I kind of wish it did because everyone seems to forget the emotional damage Heather, the non-celebrity, is suffering from this. She testified that they weren't aware that they were being filmed, and once again this is key. It's a secretly recorded sex act, which is exactly the sort of stuff people go to jail for. For some bizarre reason Gawker is turning this into a first amendment issue, when there are already laws on the books preventing creeper shots, spycameras in dressing rooms and secret sex tapings in bedrooms.

To those arguing about the "chilling effect" this might have on the first amendment, have you considered the opposite? The no holds-barred effect it could have on revenge-porn kings if publishing sex & nude pics you gather from an anonymous source is suddenly legal?

Mark Neuman's picture

What happens if they appeal? How often can they do that?

Audie's picture

" but about racist language on another, unpublished tape"

Did Gawker just admit they had that tape and leaked it response?

Dabitch's picture

Timeline for the tape, just to be clear:

Jun. 24, 2015 Gawker won a suit against the FBI and got to read the investigation around the tapes.
Jul 2 2015 The Hulk Trial delayed - it was set to begin Monday that week.
Jul 24, 2015 The National Enquirer (linked in article above) released the "racist rant" tape. WWE responded by terminating Hulk Hogan's contract.

As we say in Swedish "det där var en händelse som ser ut som en tanke" (That was an event that looks like a thought). Denton gets FBI files (including tapes, as Denton says that's when he knew the reason for the suit), and then tapes mysteriously find their way to other rags. Now, the AP and other press filed to unseal all the sealed files and once that's done we will presumably know what tapes came from where.

Our first mention of the suit here was the 18 July 2015.

Aquatic Reptile's picture

Every time you mention that you're from SWEDEN my mind is blown.