clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Trial (Day 3): When hypothetical answers go wrong...

In day three of the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media trial, it was Gawker's turn to be publicly shamed when A.J. Daulerio's answers to hypothetical questions went badly wrong. Flippancy led to headlines like "Where Gawker editor draws the line: A sex-tape of a 4-year old."

A.J. Daulerio: No wonder he looks nervous!
A.J. Daulerio: No wonder he looks nervous!
Pool/Getty Images

If you thought the insanity of day two of the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media trial couldn't be topped where Terry Bollea testified that Hulk Hogan's penis was ten inches long, but in real-life he wasn't quite so well endowed, then you were sadly (or should that be happily?) mistaken. But this time it was Gawker's side who had a moment of complete and utter madness.

The guilty party was Gawker's editor-in-chief from December 2011 to January 2013, A.J. Daulerio, who personally wrote the story "Even for a Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex in a Canopy Bed is Not Safe For Work but Watch it Anyway" in October 2012 that led to this trial. His explosive videotaped deposition from September 2013 started the day off with a bang.

One quickly got the sense that Daulerio was a bit of a loose cannon. An email from Gawker founder Nick Denton was presented as evidence that said "A.J. breaks all the usual rules of orthodox management." Indeed, Daulerio had gotten into trouble very early into his run at Gawker when he decided to publish a private email NBC's news anchor Brian Williams had sent to Denton against his boss' wishes. Unrepentant, Daulerio claimed that he had no regrets about any of the stories he had published at

Indeed, Anna Phillips of the Tampa Bay Times likened Daulerio's answers to those a defiant child would give:

When asked whether he would have published Hogan's sex tape excerpts if he had known that it had been filmed without his consent, Daulerio responded affirmatively, although he did pause briefly over that dilemma. He wanted to make sure that Gawker's readers saw Hogan's (or should that be Bollea's?) penis because that's usually what happens when people have sex. He didn't consider pixellating the footage because he thought labelling it NSFW (not safe for work) was enough. He didn't reach out to Hogan because he was already satisfied with the video evidence. He even admitted to being "very enthusiastic" about writing the article because he had found the sex tape "amusing", not just because he thought it was newsworthy. He even claimed that he would only be briefly embarrassed if a secretly recorded sex tape of his own was ever published without his consent:

However, the kicker was when Daulerio was asked another hypothetical question about whether he could imagine a scenario when a celebrity sex tape was not newsworthy. You can come up with excuses (mind freeze due to nervousness or being shamelessly sarcastic), but his answer was the dirt worst. It started off not so bad when he said "If they were a child," but reared into utterly awful territory when he answered the follow up question "Under what age?" with "Four." Absolutely indefensible stupidity, but that didn't stop a Gawker spokesperson from coming up with one:

"He’d just said in the prior answer that that he wouldn’t post a tape of a child and when the question was repeated he obviously made the point in a flip way because his answer was already clear."

Thankfully, we were saved more of Daulerio's inane musings on what hypothetical sex tapes would or would not be newsworthy to him thanks to a timely objection from Gawker's legal counsel.

Next up we had live testimony from Hulk Hogan's lawyer David Houston. First, he was questioned by a colleague of his, allowing him to get some shots in at Gawker. We'll just cover the most salient points here. The following letter from Steven Hirsch of Vivid Entertainment to Hulk Hogan offering to distribute his sex tape was introduced as evidence to the jury:

The point of this seems to have been to proof that Hogan had no interest in the video being made public, as Houston claimed he responded to Hirsch that they wanted no part in its dissemination and weren't in this to sell a sex tape.

Houston stressed that they only wanted the video removed from Gawker's article, not for it to be taken down completely. As well as sending a cease and desist letter, Houston also made a personal plea to Denton to remove the video footage from Daulerio's piece, but he refused:

The impression given was that they didn't want a fight, they just wanted the video taken down.

On a side note, it was striking how Houston repeatedly referred to his client as Hulk Hogan on the stand not Terry Bollea, given the song and dance about the distinction between the two made earlier in the week:

Houston made sure to complain about how Gawker's video went viral calling it "cancerous" in this case. He was particularly offended that his client's image had appeared on the website SlutLoad:

After a bad morning for Gawker, the afternoon brought their lawyer Michael Sullivan the chance to cross-examine Houston and pick some holes in his thesis, which Houston at times responded quite aggressively to.

Sullivan emphasized how Houston hadn't sued the website when they had posted images from Hogan's sex tape. Moreover, when Houston asked them to take the pictures down, they even responded by posting a second set of photos from the tape, yet no action was taken.

Sullivan also pointed out a National Enquirer story that falsely blamed Hulk Hogan having an affair with Heather Cole on Bubba The Love Sponge filing for divorce with his wife, which Houston also took no action on.

Sullivan even brought up Linda Hogan's insinuation that The Hulkster was more than just friends with Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, before an objection stopped him from going down that rabbit hole.

Houston got particularly testy when Sullivan asked why he hadn't taken legal action against TMZ when he found out they had in their possession a copy of a sex tape of Hulk Hogan, because he already knew the answer to that question (that Houston was willing to work with the website in order to find out who was responsible for it). Adding to his frustration was Sullivan asking why he had made light of the situation by yucking it up in an interview with TMZ where he had joked that at least Hulk wasn't on tape with a young guy, which Houston was forced to admit was in poor taste.

The cross-examination closed with Sullivan unsuccessfully trying to get Houston to admit that initially Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker included demands to remove the written narrative describing his private sexual encounter, as well as the video. Regardless, Houston maintained that he was only interested in the video being taken down. Perhaps, but his legal documents suggest otherwise:

A videotaped deposition of Nick Denton from 2013 aired, which largely explained his journalistic philosophy at the time. Even though his opinions are quite extreme, he came across a lot better than Daulerio. Here's an overview of his stance on the case:

  • Denton explained that "traffic whoring" constituted "an article that is cheap, but is gratuitous", which he likened to "empty calories".
  • Denton said that Deadspin's tagline, "without access, favor or discretion" was the "essence" of Gawker Media.
  • He admitted that Gawker is "less sensitive to sensitivity than traditional newspapers", but argued that traditional journalism standards were "irrelevant, even damaging, in the Internet era", adding "there are still too many stories which are kept within the guild of journalists or insiders."
  • Denton's goal was that he wanted "everybody to know everything about society."
  • Regarding the Hulk Hogan article, Denton claimed that he didn't "believe there was any real judgment" and it "showed him as a real person". He himself wasn't all that excited about the Hogan story, being more enthused by the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax story at the time. Indeed, he didn't review the article personally before publication, although he may have spoken to A.J. Daulerio beforehand about it. Defending its publication, Denton argued that "we can’t always determine the circumstances in which a film was made" and that Hogan was clearly a public figure as even he knew his name despite his lack of interest in professional wrestling.
  • Finally, Hogan's side questioned an expert witness, who they have paid $350 per hour for his services, Mike Foley, a Professor in Journalism Excellence at the University of Florida. Unsurprisingly, Foley wasn't down with Gawker's sensationalist reporting. He repeatedly emphasized the need for journalists to refrain from "unnecessary harm". He criticized Gawker for not attempting to discover the source of the sex tape or getting comment from Hogan himself. He didn't believe Gawker was seeking the truth, as they didn't contact any of the principals involved, nor complied with the journalistic code of ethics. He said there was no question that Gawker's article pandered to lurid curiosity. There was more, but you get the gist.

    Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

    A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats