I am neither a fan of Gawker or Hulk Hogan, but the recent trial that resulted in $140 million in damages to be paid by Gawker to Hogan is wrong.
And I thought so before it came to light that billionaire Peter Thiel spent millions to fund the lawsuit against Gawker.
The facts are that Hogan 1) was a public figure who 2) talked publicly about his sex life and 3) the video in question also appeared on other sites. (One could also argue that Gawker has kept Hogan in the public's eye, enhancing his ability to generate cash.)
Gawker isn't a paragon of journalism in terms of always pushing for the greater good but trying to put them out of business seems to be an overreach. Now, the company has declared bankruptcy, and will try to sell itself and will layoff reporters.
As it is, already Hogan's lawyer has threatened Gawker with another lawsuit. And, at a time when a major presidential candidate is expanding the number of publications banned from attending his political events, this looks like part of a war against journalists -- and that's not a good thing.
I hope the Gawker gets the chance to appeal its case.
What hangs in the balance isn't just Gawker and its employees.
It's a matter of what standards apply to public figures. One can argue that a sex tape of a public figure is not Pulitzer Prize-material but the implications of this lawsuit is that journalists may decide to back off on how they cover public figures for fear of unreasonable damages. Think I'm overstating things? The other lawsuit threatened by Hogan's lawyer is because of an article Gawker wrote about a hair treatment clinic whose main client, apparently, is Donald Trump. While Trump is not the one threatening legal action for the article, it now seems to be open season not just on Gawker but our free press.
Again, that's a bad situation for our democracy.
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