Gawker founder Nick Denton annihilates gay billionaire Peter Thiel

Nick Denton

Nick Denton AP Photo

When we heard this week that billionaire PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, a Trump delegate, was the one who’s been bankrolling Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, here’s how we framed it:

“Let’s get ready to rumble! In this corner, weighing in at 11.7 million unique monthly global readers and an annual revenue of roughly $45 million, Nick Denton and Gawker Media. And in this corner, weighing in at 322lbs, the Hulkamaniac himself, Hulk Hogan…and billionaire gay libertarian Peter Thiel!”

Well it turns out we were onto something — in an open letter published on Gawker Thursday, Denton addresses Thiel directly for the first time in public, and among other things, challenges him to an “open and public debate.”

“For Silicon Valley, the media spotlight is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Denton writes. “Most executives and venture capitalists are accustomed to dealing with acquiescent trade journalists and a dazzled mainstream media, who will typically play along with embargoes, join in enthusiasm for new products, and hew to the authorized version of a story. They do not have the sophistication, and the thicker skins, of public figures in other older power centers such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.”

thLater, he argues, “But this vindictive decade-long campaign is quite out of proportion to the hurt you claim. Your plaintiff’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has sued not just the company, but individual journalists…Peter, this is twisted. Even were you to succeed in bankrupting Gawker Media, the writers you dislike, and me, just think what it will mean.”

“Now you show yourself as a thin-skinned billionaire who, despite all the success and public recognition that a person could dream of, seethes over criticism and plots behind the scenes to tie up his opponents in litigation he can afford better than they.”

Related: The Seven All Time Strangest Remarks From PayPal Billionaire Peter Thiel

Denton goes on to suggest there is an alternative to the messy court saga — one you might expect Thiel, a libertarian torch-bearer, to be more on board with:

I’m going to suggest an alternative approach. The best regulation for speech, in a free society, is more speech. We each claim to respect independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the other’s methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us have an open and public debate. The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange.

Thiel was outed nine years ago by Denton’s media network; donating $10 million to Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit has been his retribution. He’s called his potential takedown of Gawker, “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.” (Boy, now we are really scared of his other causes.)

As Vanity Fair points out, that’s “more philanthropic, it seems, than the money he has donated to the free press nonprofit organization Committee to Protect Journalists.”

Denton has the right approach–more debate, not less. We’d pay to see Thiel publicly defend his views on outing, which he seems to totally misunderstand, probably because he came out late in life and spend so many years in a closet of his own making. First, let’s be clear, the Gawker journalist who wrote about Thiel’s homosexuality does not consider the story “outing” because when he wrote it almost a decade ago, Thiel was already open about being gay to a large circle of friends and colleagues, who discussed his sexuality with a broad range of other people outside that circle. (Queerty editors knew about it before Gawker had the guts to write about it.)

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