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Hulk Hogan Gets a Big Payday From Gawker and We’re All Poorer For It

Hulk Hogan was a man's man as a WWF wrestler. But his lasting legacy may be his lawsuit against Gawker.com and the threat it poses to the First Amendment. (Photo: WWF)

Hulk Hogan was a man’s man as a WWF wrestler. But his lasting legacy may be his lawsuit against Gawker.com and the threat it poses to the First Amendment. (Photo: WWF)

Is Hogan A Hero? In the late ’70s, Hulk Hogan was fearless every Saturday on the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Who knew he was really a shy, sensitive guy? No wonder he sued when Gawker.com posted his sex tape online. Even more remarkable, who knew a jury would give him $140 million?

Fast forward 30 years or so, and the once mythical God of Thunder can now be seen blubbering with regularity on national television. His skin must be paper thin.

It’s hard to believe he tangled with superstars like Andre the Giant and George “The Animal” Steele among other brutes.

Hogan, with his giant tanned biceps, blond mane and triangular-shaped chest hair, was easily the most popular of them all. His awesome cameo as “Thunderlips” in “Rocky III” was classic. He tosses an unsuspecting Rocky clear out of the ring.

The tough guy was a living legend. The new guy is a freaking mess.

Apparently things started going wrong when his libido got tangled up with his bravado.

On his cheesy reality show, “Hogan Knows Best” that aired from 2005 to 2007, he apparently figured out you don’t need talent to stay in the limelight. What you need is a sex tape.

Let’s face it, Hogan is no fool. He understands the calculus of notoriety. Everyone saw what it did for Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.

A few hours of work (if you can call it that), then just sit back and let the residuals roll in… for life, not to mention the spinoffs. And, hey, the Hulk is hung. He had nothing to hide.

In any event, as a direct result of that show, and a few other things, Hulk and his wife decided to call it quits. Okay, shit happens. But this is where things get weird.

Apparently, in the middle of all this, the Hulkster’s best friend, a Florida-based, Howard Stern wannabe, named Bubba Clem had a plan for the man.

Bubba offered up his wife for a little bedroom one-on-one. Incredibly, Hulk agreed.

One thing led to another and they next thing you know a clip of a sex tape turned up on Gawker.com, one of the most popular trolling sites on the Net.

So far, everything was rolling according to Kim Kardashian’s playbook. But when the story kind of fell flat, Hogan decided to play both ends against the middle. He sued Gawker for “invasion of privacy.”

And, why not?

At the very least he would get reams of publicity, a deal for his sex tape, and probably a small payoff from Gawker to go away.


David Fagin

David Fagin

David Fagin is a New York writer, producer and musician. His resume boasts an incredibly diverse range of contributions, from top news sites such as Salon, AOL News, Yahoo and The Huffington Post to a wide-range of humorous entities such as The Onion, The Muppets, Comedy Central, Dennis Miller, and Howard Stern. He is fascinated by technology and social media and the seemingly love/hate relationship we have with the changing world. He is also a food snob.


 

But he underestimated the douche-baggery of Gawker owner Nick Denton who stupidly let the case go to trial.

Hulk had to know Bubba’s bedroom was wired like a movie sound stage, but whimpered to the jury that he had no idea, none, not even a clue. The great Hulk Hogan was played. Can you believe it?

Unfortunately, the only people who failed to see through Hogan’s transparency were the Florida jury members who heard the case. They awarded the wrestling icon a whopping $140 million in damages, including $40 million he didn’t even ask for to soothe his damaged psyche.

Clem, the guy at the center of all this, seems to be a special type of scum. According to trial testimony, he admitted he “convinced” his best friend to have sex with his wife. Then he taped it with an eye on turning a tidy profit down the line.

So, did Hogan sue him? Nah…

Obviously, the bigger issue here is the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Journalists are a protected class. They have the right to publish even the most private information about public figures, if it’s in the public interest to do so.

Hogan is nothing if not a public figure. He’s put himself out there for years–shamelessly.

The issue was actually settled in 1988 by the landmark case, Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell.

The Supreme Court recognized (8-0) that even Hustler’s cartoon of the Rev. Jerry Falwell talking about having sex with his mother, was protected free speech.

The court specifically ruled that the First Amendment guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress, even it’s intentionally inflicted upon them.

But the Florida jury was apparently short on Constitutional scholars.

They overlooked the fact that Hogan is not only a celebrity, but a celebrity who’s made it a point to talk about his sex life in public time, after time, after time. Instead, Gawker was found liable for posting a tape that they had no hand in making.

As legal scholars have long noted, the First Amendment is meaningless if only protects lofty discourse and not speech that some may find titillating, off-color or offensive.

Barring malicious intent, (of which there was none), Gawker was clearly within its rights to publish a small portion of the tape as part of a larger story about Hogan.

As things now stand, Denton plans to appeal the decision. A higher court will undoubtedly toss Hogan’s outlandish award.

Whether the case has a chilling affect on other media outlets remains to be seen. But the Hogan case sends a clear message. Society can never take precious rights like the First Amendment for granted.

As offensive as some protected speech may be, it’s a small price to pay for a free and unfettered society.

Hulk Hogan’s tender ego, notwithstanding.

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