Gawker Media founder Nick Denton read out a graphic account of the acts shown in a sex video featuring wrestling celebrity Hulk Hogan in a Florida courtroom on Tuesday, saying his company’s 2012 online publication “stands up to the test of time.”
Gawker was sued for US$100 million by Hogan, who said the release violated his privacy. The New York-based company could be forced out of business by an unfavorable verdict in a civil trial testing the limits of freedom of the media.
Hogan’s attorneys asked Denton, a high-profile figure in the world of Internet publishing, to read aloud a very explicit article accompanying the video, which he did in an even tone.
The lawsuit centers on the one minute, 41 seconds of video that Gawker excerpted from the sex video of unknown origin. It has not yet been shown to the jury in St Petersburg, Florida, near Hogan’s home.
The clip shows Hogan’s tryst with the wife of his then-best friend, radio “shock jock” personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan said their consensual encounter was recorded without his knowledge five years before Gawker’s posting.
Denton said he had not watched the video, nor read the article before publication. He described his role as broadly overseeing the portfolio of Web sites under Gawker Media.
Still, he stood by the piece as in keeping with Gawker’s mission to produce “true and interesting” journalism.
“The piece had value. It was true. It was a story honestly told and it was interesting to millions of people,” Denton said.
Denton’s testimony, spread out over two days, highlighted his approach to Web sites run by the Gawker company, which include technology-oriented Gizmodo and women-focused Jezebel.
Pressed on his views on privacy rights during cross-examination, Denton said celebrities have “a smaller zone.”
Jurors had questions for Denton, too. One of them asked if the sex in the video would be protected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution if it was gratuitous.
“No,” he said.
He had previously said that he did not think the sexual content overreached.
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