A secretly recorded sex tape of Hulk Hogan published online by Gawker has left the wrestler “completely humiliated.”
“I was embarrassed by what it did to me as a person, but it was even embarrassing as a character,” Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, said on Monday. “Hulk Hogan was embarrassed.” Hogan is seeking damages worth $100 million, saying Gawker’s publication of the footage is a case of invasion of privacy.
Gawker, on the other hand, maintains that the footage is protected by the First Amendment because, in addition to the tape having been covered by other media outlets, Hogan has made his sex life a matter of public interest, CNN notes.
Lawyers for Hogan, a reality TV star and longtime World Wrestling Entertainment champion, argue that the footage was captured without the knowledge of their client, Reuters reports.
When the abridged version of the 30-minute video, originally filmed in 2007, was posted on the website in 2012, it instantly went viral and amassed 5 million views. Its subsequent publication on other websites yielded another 2.5 million views, Hogan’s lawyer said.
Hogan said the incident occurred when his marriage was ending. There had been a joke for two years about Hogan having sex with the wife of his friend, Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem. When Hogan’s wife filed for divorced, he called Clem, who invited the wrestler to his home. Upon Hogan’s arrival, he said Heather Clem took him to the bedroom and handed him a condom. Hogan said he was “violently shaking” when he learned that Clem was speaking about making a fortune from the tape.
According to the New York Times, Hogan’s lawyers said that by publishing the video, Gawker allowed the public to watch Hogan, outside of his knowledge, in his bedroom having sex. He further said that Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, and A.J. Daulerio, the website’s former editor, “knowingly and maliciously” published the content on their website to seek financial gain. It also violated Florida law, he said, which prohibits the publication of private communications without consent.
If Gawker suffers a loss in the trial, it could put the website out of business. However, one of its attorneys said, Gawker will appeal an unfavorable verdict.