ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The founder of Gawker Media underwent a bruising cross-examination Tuesday by a lawyer for former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan as a trial continued for a second week in Hogan’s lawsuit over a sex video.
At one point, attorney Kenneth Terkel had Nick Denton read aloud the explicit post that accompanied the video posted on Gawker.
Under Terkel’s combative questioning, Denton read to the jury a post describing Hogan’s sex with the wife of his then-best friend, Bubba The Love Sponge Clem.
Denton also testified that he gave no consideration to whether Hogan would be harmed by the video’s publication, and that it “stands the test of time” and is newsworthy.
“I think celebrities have a smaller zone of privacy than private individuals,” Denton said.
Terkel also brought up a Playboy interview with Denton, who told the magazine that “every infringement of privacy is sort of liberating. Afterward, you have less to lose; you’re a freer person. Shouldn’t we all want to own our own story?”
Denton also said that he did not see the video before his editor, A.J. Daulerio, posted it on the Gawker site in 2012. As founder of the media company, Denton said he was not involved in the day-to-day decisions of the editorial process, much like publishers at mainstream news organizations.
After Denton’s testimony, jurors passed notes to the judge asking several questions. In Florida civil trials, jurors can ask questions of witnesses and the court.
A juror asked Denton if he believed non-celebrities had a right to privacy in their own bedrooms.
“I don’t think it’s newsworthy to do a story on a private individual,” Denton said. Hogan, he has maintained, is a worldwide celebrity.
“Sex is an important part of people’s lives,” Denton said.
He added, “I believe now that the piece had value. It was a story honestly told and it was interesting to millions of people.”
Hogan is suing Gawker for $100 million for posting the video. He contends it invaded his privacy.
The civil trial is being held in St. Petersburg.
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