The $140 million lawsuit brought against Gawker Media by WWE superstar Hulk Hogan has been funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.
While Thiel had been suspected of bankrolling the lawsuit he had never admitted to it in public. In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Thiel said he is supporting Hogan’s efforts and at least one other lawsuit against the controversial digital media company.
Thiel told The Times he is supporting justice and “deterrence.” Stories published by Gawker have been “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted,” including friends of his, he said. “I thought it was worth fighting back.”
Before it was closed down Gawker’s tech blog Valleywag had written about Thiel’s business dealings and personal life. In 2007, the publication wrote a story titled, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”
A Florida jury recently awarded Hogan $140 million for Gawker’s invasion of his privacy.
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton told The Times on Wednesday night, “Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby’s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise’s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”
While Thiel would not say how much he has spent on Hulk Hogan’s case, he said it was “roughly in the ballpark” of $10 million.
“This is not a business venture,” he added.
The attorney representing Hogan, Charles Harder, is involved in two other suits against Gawker.
In his New York Times interview Thiel said of his involvement: “I figured it would eventually come out.”
Thiel didn’t explain why he kept his involvement a secret until now.
Thiel said he considered his bankrolling of the Hogan suit to be “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.”
The Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker has fueled public discussion about the right to privacy versus freedom of the press.
“You may not like Gawker. They’ve published stories I would have been ashamed to publish,” Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall wrote. “But if the extremely wealthy, under a veil of secrecy, can destroy publications they want to silence, that’s a far bigger threat to freedom of the press than most of the things we commonly worry about on that front.”