Gawker Media recently lost a gigantic lawsuit that could cost it over $140 million, brought against it by former pro wrestler and reality TV star Hulk Hogan over the publication of a sex tape in 2012.
The lawsuit brought by Hogan accused the New York-based blog of invading his privacy.
But Gawker founder Nick Denton believes there's another reason why Hogan brought the suit: to prevent the release of additional videos that show him using racial slurs.
In a post published on Gawker on Tuesday, Denton wrote:
As our lawyers argued in legal briefs that were kept secret by the trial judge from the public—and even from me—until an appeals court unsealed them on Friday, Hogan filed the claim because he was terrified that one of the other tapes, which memorialized his rant about his daughter dating “f—–g n—–s,” might emerge.
In fact, according to Denton, there are text messages out there that describe Hogan's motivation in bringing the suit:
As I have come to learn, Hogan himself put it in a text message to his best friend, the radio shock-jock Bubba Clem, days after we published our story: “We know there’s more than one tape out there and a one that has several racist slurs were told."
Apparently, the part of Gawker's argument containing information about the additional tapes was not available to the jury that awarded $25 million in punitive damages in addition to the $115 million awarded last week. Denton continues:
I had suspicions, but it is now clear that Hogan’s lawsuit was a calculated attempt to prevent Gawker, or anyone else who might obtain evidence of his racism, from publishing a truth more interesting and more damaging than a revelation about his sex life.
The existence of additional Hogan sex tapes has been part of the background of Gawker's fight with the former pro wrestler over first amendment issues. In 2015, Gawker sued the FBI for evidence related to an investigation into additional Hogan sex tapes.
Later that year, Radar Online and the National Enquirer published quotes that match Denton's description, purportedly transcribed from a separate and different sex tape depicting Hogan and Sponge Clem, the two people who were in the clip that Gawker published.
Regardless, Gawker is set up for a fight in appeals court to overturn the $140 million in damages a Florida jury decided it was on the hook for. Gawker might have to pay a $50 million bond in the meantime.
Denton expects to win his case in appeals court, and there have been indications that judges might have a more favorable interpretation of Gawker's legal argument.
"We feel very positive about the appeal that we have already begun preparing, as we expect to win this case ultimately," Denton said in a statement released late last week.