Hulk Hogan was awarded $115 million in his lawsuit against Gawker Media


We’ve done some coverage around the Hulk Hogan-Gawker thing without really addressing what the whole mess is really about. That’s because I’m still not entirely clear. Back in 2012, Gawker got their hands on a sex tape between Hulk Hogan and Heather Clem, a tape that was made years beforehand. At the time of the making of the tape, Clem was married to Bubba the Love Sponge, but Clem and the Hulk were apparently having sex with Bubba’s blessing, implicitly or explicitly. There’s some issue around the consent for the actual sex tape – I believe Clem always knew she was on tape, but Hulk claimed he didn’t know about some or all of the taped sex sessions? That’s one of the sticking points for the lawsuit, because when Gawker published portions of the sex tape(s), Hulk Hogan sued Gawker.

The case was simmering in pre-trial motions for years, and before the trial even began this month, the shock waves from the lawsuit were already causing serious damage… to Hulk Hogan. Last year, the full tapes ended up at the National Enquirer, and because of Hulk Hogan’s repeated use of the n-word in his pillow-talk with Clem, the WWE ended up firing Hulk Hogan, wiping his records off of their website and pulling all of his merchandise. So, the trial began this month and on Friday, the jury came down with their verdict.

Hulk Hogan has been awarded $115m by a Florida jury over Gawker’s 2012 posting of his sex tape, PEOPLE can confirm.

“We’re exceptionally happy with the verdict. We think it represents a statement as to the public’s disgust with the invasion of privacy disguised as journalism. The verdict says no more,” the Bollea team said in a statement to PEOPLE.

Variety reports that the jury found that Hogan – real name Terry Gene Bollea – had suffered “severe emotional distress” in the last three years since the sex tape surfaced. Hogan claimed that the tape, showing Hogan having sex with his best friend’s then-wife, was secretly recorded.

Gawker’s lawyers argued the tape was newsworthy as Hogan, 62, openly discussed his sex life during various media interviews. In a statement issued Friday, Gawker Media indicated it is already contemplating an appeal.

“We’re disappointed the jury was unable to see key evidence and hear testimony from the most important witness,” says Gawker’s statement. “So it may be necessary for the appeals court to resolve this case. Hulk Hogan’s best friend Bubba the Love Sponge – who made the tape and offered up his wife in the first place – originally told his radio listeners that Hulk Hogan knew he was being taped. The jury was only able to hear a questionable version of events. Bubba should have been required to appear in court and explain what really happened.”

The statement from Gawker adds: “There is still more to the story. We expect the upcoming release of improperly sealed documents, important evidence that the jury should have been able to see, will begin revealing the true facts that the jury deserved to know about during deliberations.”

In his own statement, David Houston, another of Hogan’s lawyers, said Bubba Clem had previously testified under oath that Hogan “had no knowledge of being filmed” and had nothing to do with the tape’s production.

[From People]

The $115 million figure is enough to make me gulp, so I would imagine the folks at Gawker are drinking quite heavily this weekend. Still, Gawker publisher/founder Nick Denton has good lawyers and this is definitely not the end of it. It does feel like people are wondering if Gawker Media can live to fight another day though. But for what it’s worth, Gawker still has all of their original Hulk Hogan posts up.

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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91 Responses to “Hulk Hogan was awarded $115 million in his lawsuit against Gawker Media”

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  1. LookyLoo says:

    I wondered about their strategy. They said he was a public figure, so the public deserved to see him having sex. I would not have argued about the sex, but more about what he said during the tape. The man was secretly a racist and the public deserved to know that.

    • Naya says:

      Prior to Gawker publishing the tape, there had been long standing rumors about Hulk Hogan and Bubba either being swingers or bi. Tapes were said to exist and that Bubba would play the ones featuring Hulk to friends for a laugh. Hulk actually went on Howard Stern to dispute this. He talked about it at length, as did Bubba on his own show.

      Gawker could have made the argument that Hulk Hogan and Bubba were two public figures who had themselves put this subject in the public arena by addressing it on scurriolous sirius radio shows. But the writer of the article was stupid enough not to mention the history in the original article and refer to the tape as rebutting Bubba and Hulks public statements. He was also Dumb Enough To admit at the deposition that he wasnt even aware that Hulk and Bubba had already publicly discussed it. The sheer stupidity of not googling the names “Hulk and Bubba” and “sex” “rumors” before posting that tape almost mandates those damages imo.

      • Bridget says:

        Even then, that’s a huge leap to go from ‘Hulk talked about it’ to it being newsworthy and therefore acceptable to release. This whole thing is just SO GROSS.

      • Venus says:

        Yes, Bridget, I agree! The idea of anyone’s privately recorded sexual exploits being considered to be fair game as “news” or gossip is disgusting. I don’t care who they are or what they’re doing — releasing stuff like that is never okay.

      • Naya says:

        To be clear, I am only discussing the legal component, not the moral one. Once again, the fact that he had publicly discussed it would allow Gawker to make the argument that they believed the video to be newsworthy because it refuted a public statement by a public figure. But Gawker couldnt rely on this in court because they admitted they had no clue about any of this at the time of publication.

        It is more than likely that had the writer known about this, phrased the article as a rebuttal of the interviews and structured their defence accordingly, this case would have ended very differently.

      • Bridget says:

        Naya, I got what you mean. I’m just doubting that the argument of newsworthiness would have still held up in that context – basically, if someone (a celebrity or public figure) discusses something, it’s now considered newsworthy even if it’s a gross violation of privacy?

      • Naya says:

        Thats exactly how it works. If you as a public figure make public statements specifically about something, you have made any evidence refuting that newsworthy.

      • Borgqueen says:

        I think the ruling sets a very important precedent against Gawker. While I used to loved reading Gawker and following the Hogan saga faithfully. Gawker also posted a video of a girl that was raped and refused to take down. Not only that the way the editor spoke to this rape victim is outrageous.

        Then-company lawyer Gaby Darbyshire also e-mailed the woman, defending the (rape) video as “completely newsworthy” and scolding her about how “one’s actions can have unintended consequences.”

    • Crowdhood says:

      Why do you feel the public deserves to know? I am not apologizing for his behavior or being sarcastic with my question, I just generally don’t see how we, the public, “deserve” to know anything. Maybe about our elected officials but not about some former wrestler. I think the overall entitlement we all have towards everything is dangerous.

      • laura says:

        +1 to all of this crowdhood

      • DrMrsTheMonarch says:

        This, exactly. Hulk Hogan doesn’t hold public office nor a place of high esteem or importance with the public. Its really impossible to argue that this was knowledge the public needed – at least not enough to get past the invasion of privacy aspect.
        The media can’t actually put everything out there no-matter-what. It has to be balanced.

        This balance is what keeps the media out of my garbage – and yours.

      • Lisa says:

        we never wanted to know either and the judge took this into account!

      • Samtha says:

        100 percent agreed.

      • crtb says:

        Then why didn’t he also sue his “friend and his wife” Were they just as guilty for filming him?

  2. Dangles says:

    I’m surprised such a devout Christian as Hulk Hogan would have sex out of marriage. Just look at the top photo. He’s wearing a crucifix and everything.

    • LookyLoo says:

      And he wore it during the entire trial. Such a wonderful Christian: saying black people are only worth dating if they have money.

  3. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Everybody in this story stinks.

    • aims says:

      Agreed. I can’t wrap my head around someone being ok with their friend sleeping with their wife. Then the act gets caught on camera, spread around the world. Hulk Hogan is s disgusting, the friend is disgusting and I sorta feel bad for the woman, being passed around. The whole thing is gross.

    • censored says:

      Exactly ! There is literally no one to cheer for here . Think Gawker was wrong but Hulk Hogan is the absolute worst , hes always given me an off vibe even in his WWF heyday . That pic of him slathering suntan lotion on his grown daughters bikini clad body including her buttocks and inner thigh has had me giving the entire family major side eye

      Also how do they arrive at these figures was Gawker really 115 mil worth of wrong ? Get the privacy issue but did the tape also somehow damage his brand and prevent from earning anywhere that much ? basically wasn’t he washed up this point ? Think Gawker should def pay up but that figure seems high

      • Imqrious2 says:

        I read that the jury took an amount ($4.95) for a pay-per-view, and multiplied it by the number of hits the vid got. That was the number they awarded Hulk.

      • Borgqueen says:

        It did affect his income bc all he had left was making appearances on WWE and selling his stuff on their websites, etcc. He was fired from WWE and all mention of him was wiped from WWE websites which is considered family programming.

      • Erica_V says:

        Oh yes, the tape very much damaged his brand and prevented future earning as he actually had just had a match at Wrestlemania and was planned for upcoming shows when the tape hit and his racist remarks were made public which caused WWE to fire him & pull all his merch from the Shop which he gets a $ cut of.

        It’s interesting tho – WWE didn’t fire him over the existence of the actual tape, they fired him over the racist remarks he made IN the tape. We’ll never know but it would’ve been interesting to see how WWE handled the incident if it was just a sex tape without the racist remarks.

    • Kitten says:

      Totally. The whole story is incredibly disturbing. Or maybe it’s just the idea of having sex with Hulk Hogan that’s really repulsing me.

    • teacakes says:

      I agree.

      But Gawker can go die in a fire, they are actual scum. They outed a Conde Nast executive last year and at this trial, the editor being questioned about what circumstances they would choose NOT to publish a sex tape in (when discussing newsworthiness etc), responded that they wouldn’t publish any featuring children, and the cutoff age was four years old.

      like idk if that dipshit realised COURT is not the best place to start behaving as if he’s talking to the comments section of his website, and with a paedophilia joke at that.

      • Kitten says:

        Not trying to defend Gawker but that comment has been clarified numerous times. He was being facetious and a smart-ass with his response, not thinking about how sarcasm would translate In a court transcript. He’s an idiot for sure, but I think in the name of fairness it’s important to point out that his response wan’t meant to be taken seriously. Again, stupid dude..

      • teacakes says:

        @Kitten I know that but it’s still highly telling that AJ Daulerio didn’t think to take seriously the fact that he was answering questions in a court of law.

        I mean, how arrogant and out of touch with reality do you have to be to not realise that there is a time and place for ‘snark’ and this was not it?

        Any lawyer worth their degree would have warned him about the way to answer questions in court (just be straightforward, don’t try to be sarcastic) but he most likely just ignored it.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Succinct and true.

  4. Ankhel says:

    Even despicable racists have the right to decide if they want their sex tapes to be released or not. The law is the same for everybody. Whether Terry knew there was a tape or not, Gawker should have gotten his consent before they published. They never even asked him, and you bet they knew better. Gawker has a terrible record when it comes to respecting people’s privacy. They outed a perfectly ordinary, married media exec against his will in a disgusting hit piece before, and were smug and unapologetic about it.

    Now Gawker has gotten a proper slap, and we hopefully won’t have to see the Hulk anymore. Happy Easter!

    • Jellybean says:

      I will just be delighted if Gawker goes out of business. Then The National Enquirer.

    • Jen43 says:

      Gawker has gone so far downhill it makes me sad. The only reason I check in is to read the comments section. Their political coverage is the worst.

    • Eden75 says:

      Exactly. Even if the tape was made with both of their consent, that is not consent for it to be released publicly. I am not a Hogan fan but i believe that he has rights too. In fact, I hope that this kind of case will also be applied to those sites and rags that post revenge p0rn and the like. People have sex, that’s not news, posting it without their knowledge and thrashing their lives? That’s vile and needs to stop.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Yes, I agree.

    • crtb says:

      yeah, I feel sorry for him like I feel sorry for Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Slime has a gift for turning sh1t into gold. If he never receives a penny from Gwaker, he will make a mint from this.

    • I Choose Me says:


  5. Seapharris7 says:

    I detest Hogan & Co, but no one deserves to have their privacy violated in such a way. I hope all that money goes to the brain dead veteran Hogan’s son practically killed.

  6. Jen43 says:

    The cynic in me says that HH was more concerned about the racist language he used and the damage to his career that he knew it would cause. However, I dont agree with publishing a sex tapes or nude photos without the consent of the people in the tape or photos. I know this is a grey area when people claim they don’t want the tape out there , KK of course, but really DO want the profit, fame and leak the tape themselves. Gawker is wrong here, though.

    • swak says:

      KK and KJ brokered the deal for her sex tape to be out there with Vivid. Again, claiming she didn’t want it out there is hypocritical. If she didn’t want it out there she should have never given permission. It wasn’t “leaked”.

  7. lila fowler says:

    I hate Gawker so even if it has to be Hulk Hogan of all people that brings them down, I’m all for it.

  8. Kath says:

    Hulk Hogan runs a close second to Donald Trump as the most physically repulsive man I have ever seen.

    I don’t usually like to comment negatively on someone’s appearance, but both are such racist a-holes that I feel justified.

  9. Char says:

    Am I correct in thinking that this win for Hogan proves that all those other people who “didn’t want their sex tape released” actually did, because none of them even tried to take whoever released it to court?

    • Fee says:

      Char: great point! They could have n should have. Did Pamela Anderson sue the movers who got her tape?

      • flybaby says:

        That tape 8mproved her career it didn’t end it. Not that it makes it alright. But its less incentive to sue

    • jc126 says:

      Yes, you’re right.
      I’m glad he won. No one should have a sex tape published without their consent. If Hulk Hogan was a beloved celebrity, especially a female celebrity, everyone would be rightfully disgusted that Gawker published it against her consent.

      • Truthie says:

        NYT: The lawyers tried to turn Mr. Denton’s philosophy of transparency against him, asking why he had guests give up their cellphones at his wedding. The suggestion was that Mr. Denton was being hypocritical about a public figure’s right to privacy.

        “We didn’t want images to show up” on social media, Mr. Denton acknowledged.

      • Kitten says:

        If it was a beloved female celebrity who boned her friend’s husband even with her friend’s consent–the responses WOULD be quite different, just not in the way you are implying.

      • DSW says:

        Gawker actually decried the hackers who released Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes. Apparently, JLaw has a right to privacy, but Hulk doesn’t.

    • Esther says:

      not necessarily. gawker was also insanely dumb in how they handled everything. if you piss off the court and defy their orders they’ll make you pay.

    • Bridget says:

      It really depends, because case law has only recently started catching up on the subject, so from some people with early tapes (like Pamela Anderson) it was stolen and released and they had very little legal recourse at the time. But then you have someone like KK and KJ who did a professionally lit and staged tape and brokered a deal with the biggest adult entertainment company out there to have it released.

  10. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    Just waiting to see if this causes Gawker/Jezebel/Deadpsin to go under as a company. They’re valued at 300 mill and Nick was quite honest in admitting a judgement against them could destroy them.

    Good for Hulk Hogan, in spite of me no longer liking the man, he didn’t deserve to have his tape released and it’s disgusting how media companies have played fast and loose with people’s personal information. Gawker just last year outed a private individual’s sexual habits with nearly all of their usual commenters saying what across and offensive violation it was for something no one really cared about.

  11. Sam says:

    Somewhere in an old rustic house in Bedford NY, Blake Lively, is smiling and bubbling up with joy over this.

    • Wiffie says:

      Wait… Why?

    • teatimeiscoming says:

      …er, sorry, but what does Blake Lively have to do with this? I’m old and lost.

      • Sam says:

        In 2014, Blake Lively and Gawker went at it because Gawker wrote a piece about her life style website and how she is racist and plagiarizes. Her lawyer sent Gawker a letter about it and then Gawker published that letter from her lawyer as well.

      • Naya says:

        Its reasons like this that I want Gawker to survive. When dbags like Blake or Jeremy Renner get their minions to put pressure for positive coverage, Gawker publishes that. Its the most anti-celebrity, celebrity site.

      • Bridget says:

        Considering how embarrassing that was for Lively (people STILL reference “The Allure of Antebellum” and not in a good way) I’m guessing she’s pretending the whole thing never happened.

      • teacakes says:

        even though I hate them, I have to go with #teamGawker for going in on Lively’s Allure of Antebellum crap.

        No one made her publish it or plagiarise from an existing source (seriously it’s like someone went crazy with the synonym function on Word). Gawker didn’t publish anything private or questionable there, they just took what she had released for public viewing herself and analysed it.

    • lila fowler says:

      @Sam …do you think Lively is the only person ever to get taunted and mocked by Gawker? So random to even bring her into this. What they said about Lively’s crap site =/= what they did to Hogan, not even remotely close.

      • Sam says:

        @Lila Fowler Yes because what Hulk Hogan said in that video is so much better than what Blake Lively wrote. Blake was deemed a racist because of writing about the Antebellum South (which I don’t think she is a racist…I just think she’s too ignorant to realize how her words can be interpreted) and in a lot of ways her character was ruined. Hulk Hogan actually said things that would qualify him being a racist and you and I both know that’s the only reason why he took Gawker to court. But to answer your question…I only brought up Blake because in both cases the issue of racism is involved.

      • Sam says:

        Btw in all honesty I only posted it as a joke…but the jokes on me. But it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out going forward and what happens to Gawker.

      • Bridget says:

        That’s like saying pineapples and green beans are similar because they’re both plants. Lively published a questionable piece on her e-commerce site. That was written, edited, proofed, shot, etc. It was a deliberate choice, and even if the racism was unintended, the criticism leveled her way was valid and justifiable. Hogan said some gross things in a scenario where he had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

  12. huh says:

    Amen. They all suck.

  13. Lama Bean says:

    I can never really think that hard about this story because my stomach starts churning at the idea of Hulk Hogan 1. having sex and 2. With his best friend’s wife.

  14. Bridget says:

    Gawker is just the worst. All of the Gawker media sites are just so poorly written, they feel like the entire staff is populated by people working their first journalism gig in between babysitting jobs. It doesn’t matter how gross Hulk Hogan is, the release of that tape was such a violation of privacy, and all of Gawker ‘ arguments amount to “well we *wanted* to publish it and that should be enough”.

    • WTW says:

      It’s so funny that you say this because I’m a journalist who has been told to write in the Gawker “style” before. You know, really snarky without any substance. Gawker has been influential in the spread of snark in “journalism.” I disagree with this style but can’t deny its overarching influence. Writers are supposed to sound like hipsters these days, or else.

      • Bridget says:

        I don’t necessarily mind the snark, but the focus of Gawker articles are almost embarrassingly narrow (I mean, their big ‘gets’ are doxing an Internet troll and uncovering that a Heisman trophy candidate lied about his dead girlfriend) and with absolutely no depth. Most of their pieces have the depth of high school journalism assignments.

      • Fiorella says:

        How devestating! I can’t stand the style and I see it in other places too now! Like huffpo

      • censored says:

        Gawker reminds me of the Kardashians .People complain that they are over it and its so much “beneath them .Yet everyday many of those same people are visiting the sites and giving them clicks and hits
        Hate clicking and Hate watching I dont get it

      • Bridget says:

        If it helps, I haven’t clicked on a Gawker site in a long, long time, and for the very reasons I mentioned. Nor do I watch the Kardashians (and rarely click on Kardashian stories).

      • censored says:


      • censored says:

        Wasnt trying to shade you in particular just making a general observation and I was responding to@ WTW comment actually
        Hope that helps

      • lila fowler says:

        I hate everyone who works for Gawker. They are all idiot children and so smug, defiant and self-satisfied while they violate the rights of others and it drives me nuts. I hope they all end up waiting tables and mopping floors. Jerks.

  15. Amanda G says:

    This case is tough for me because I used to really love Gawker before they went 100% political. I miss their fun reviews of TV shows, or the silly gossip, or just reading some of the hilarious responses from the commenters there. However, I supported Erin in her lawsuit, so I feel as though I should support Hulk too. Even though I despise Hulk, no one deserves for their privacy to be violated in this way. One question I’ve had is what kind of repercussions did his friend and wife who secretly taped him receive??? Shouldn’t they be the one to be sued??

  16. K37744 says:

    Forgive me if this has been covered ad nauseum, but how did Gawker get the tape in the first place? Do they disclose that?

    • Bridget says:

      So that’s actually pretty sketchy. It’s pretty clear that Bubba leaked it to Gawker. But what’s unclear is whether or not Hogan knew he was being filmed – especially since even though Hulk sued Gawker for a crazy amount of money, but he settled with Bubba (the actual party responsible for the tape) for just $5K. There are folks that think that Bubba and Hogan perpetrated a massive hustle (made easier by Gawker’s amateur defense).

  17. partasti says:

    If they wanted to reveal he was a racist, they could have released the audio. The whole ‘but he talked about his sex life’ angle was dangerous. So has Jennifer Lawerence. ‘But its newsworty because hes racist’, people said similar things about how it was newsworthy because Americas Sweetheart was higher than a kite in some pictures and videos and parents have a right to know who their kids look upto.

    If you want to be a cold hearted jerk, according to court records only the Sponge creep knew it was being made. Hulks leak may have been an even worse ‘sex crime’ (if we are still calling it that) the the women from the fappening who knew the pictures had been made.

    Gawker and the fappening people who leaked/posted their videos/pictures are creeps that belong in Jail.

  18. pinetree13 says:

    What a demented world we live in. This racist loon gets awarded OVER 100 MILLION DOLLARS~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is so, so much money. Meanwhile, there are 7 year olds crushing minerals to make the batteries that are in all of our smart phones just to survive on a few cents a day.

    The world is mad. Mad.

  19. Veronica says:

    Okay, yeah, he’s a douche, but publishing it was absolutely a violation of his and Clem’s privacy. Being publicly accessible in some ways does not infer complete accessibility to a person’s life.

  20. Sam says:

    I feel like Gawker put themselves into a corner when it came to this due to their own double standards. When Deadspin posted a video of a college girl having sex in a bathroom (a girl who was not, and never has been, a public figure), they eventually recanted and removed the video after admitting it had been in bad taste. Jezebel also railed against the release of the pics of multiple celebrity women. So how is it okay to publish the Hogan tape? I didn’t buy their whole “well he talks about sex, so therefore, the tape is newsworthy.” So if any celebrity discusses their sex life at all in public, any aspect of their intimate life is newsworthy? Somehow, if the genders were reversed, I think a lot of people would feel differently.

  21. CK says:

    Eh, maybe Gawker could ask Bernie Sanders for a loan. They sure as hell have been carrying his water this entire campaign. Then again, I see this being reduced or overturned on appeal. Apparently, one of the jurors asked a female editor if she slept with her bosses to get her job.

  22. Jana says:

    So why isn’t Hulk suing his good friend Bubba? Maybe because they have been friends for 25 years and are in cohoots for a big payday. I don’t trust anyone with their morals, they are sick individuals.