Florida jury awards Hulk Hogan $140.1 million in sex-tape lawsuit against Gawker


A Pinellas County jury awarded Hulk Hogan $25.1 million in punitive damages Monday, days after the same jury awarded the former wrestler $115 million in his invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media. 

Gawker must pay an additional $15 million, while Gawker Media founder Nick Denton and former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio will respectively pay $10 million and $100,000, bringing up Hogan's total damages to $140.1 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times

If you haven't been following the trial, sit back for this salacious yarn and try not to get the characters mixed up. 

Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, used to be best friends with Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, a Tampa radio shock jock. In 2006, Clem used surveillance cameras to record Hogan having sex with his then-wife Heather Clem in Clem's home. In 2012, Gawker received the 30-minute sex tape on a DVD in the mail from an anonymous source. 

Gawker editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio edited the tape down to one minute and 41 seconds and posted it online with extensive commentary under the headline "Even for a Minute, Watching Hulk Hogan Have Sex in a Canopy Bed is Not Safe For Work but Watch it Anyway." 

Hogan sued Gawker and Clem, saying he was unaware that he was being filmed. On his radio show, Clem blasted Hogan, saying he knew all along he was being recorded, but after settling with Hogan for $5,000, he changed his story, saying he secretly filmed his former best friend, the Times reports. At point in the lawsuit, Gawker was ordered to take down the post, but editors decided to only remove the video, but not the accompanying commentary.

In a St. Petersburg court, Gawker's lawyers argued that Hogan's "frequent public discussion of his sex life made the clip newsworthy and thus protected by the First Amendment." Hogan's lawyers tried to make clear to the jury there was a difference between Hogan the celebrity and Bollea the human being who felt "completely humiliated" by Gawker's invasion of privacy when they published the tape, the Times reports.

Ultimately, the jury had to decide if the sex tape could be considered newsworthy enough to be of public concern, according to Politico. The stars did not seem to be in Gawker's favor last week when the jury awarded Hogan $115 million in his lawsuit. Denton told Politico before the trial ended that if the jury awarded Hogan even a fraction of what he was asking, the results for Gawker would be "disastrous." 

The arguments on whether this is bad for the First Amendment have already started popping up on the Internet. After the case was over, one jury member told the Times:

"I understand that we have a First Amendment, and I stand behind the First Amendment," says Salina Stevens, of St. Petersburg. "We also have privacy laws and I hope that will be taken into consideration."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.