Billionaire Peter Thiel Says He Funded Hulk Hogan's Gawker Lawsuit | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Billionaire Peter Thiel Says He Funded Hulk Hogan's Gawker Lawsuit

Hogan sued Gawker after it posted a 2007 video of him having sex with his friend's wife

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images for New York Times, File
    Peter Thiel participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference at the Whitney Museum of American Art on November 3, 2015, in New York City. He told DealBook editor Aaron Ross Sorkin on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, that he backed Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker.

    A billionaire tech mogul rumored to be behind Hulk Hogan's high-profile lawsuit against Gawker has admitted he bankrolled the case, telling The New York Times Wednesday that he wanted to put the gossip website out of business.

    According to the Times interview, PayPal founder Peter Thiel quietly put $10 million into funding lawyers to find people Gawker had written about and plan cases against them.

    New Orleans to Remove Confederate-Era Monuments

    [NATL] New Orleans to Remove Confederate-Era Monuments

    The city of New Orleans will remove four statues of Confederate-era events and figures in an effort to divorce itself from symbols that some see as problematic. The first statue, the Liberty Place Monument, was taken down early Monday morning. 

    (Published Monday, April 24, 2017)

    A Florida jury awarded $140 million to Hogan in March in a verdict against Gawker, which had posted a video of him having sex with his then-best friend's wife. The case threatens to put Gawker and its sister websites, like Deadspin and Jezebel, out of business.

    This week, rumors swirled that Thiel paid for the case, with reports in Forbes and the Times citing anonymous sources that the billionaire paid for the suit. They also noted that Hogan's legal team decided not to file a claim that would trigger a payout from Gawker's legal insurance, which they said struck legal observers as odd. 

    "I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest," Thiel said in the interview with columnist Aaron Ross Sorkin, which was posted online Wednesday night.

    Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007, and the Gawker empire has run a number of stories skewering Facebook; he still sits on the social network's board.

    Driver Flees Traffic Stop, Dragging Police Officer

    [NATL-DFW] Driver Flees Traffic Stop, Dragging Police Officer

    Body camera footage shows a Florida police officer being dragged by a driver attempting to flee a traffic stop.

    Police said Frank Wetzel, 61, was pulled over after blowing through a stop sign. Police said he started fidgeting with something next to him, making the officer suspicious. He was allegedly later found with a machete and handgun.

    (Published Monday, April 24, 2017)

    "The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this," Thiel told the Times.

    Thiel did not release any other public statements Wednesday night.

    Hogan's lawyers wouldn't comment on the Thiel story earlier Wednesday for The Associated Press, before Thiel spoke publicly.

    Gawker reacted to the initial reports by saying: "There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefited, and this case is far from over."

    Legal experts say there is nothing illegal — or even unethical — about someone financing a lawsuit. There are entire companies that invest in contingency claims, usually in product liability, personal injury, patent infringement and copyright cases. It is called "litigation financing."

    But a billionaire doing it out of what may be spite? That's a little different, experts say.

    "As much as this is not at all illegal or unethical, it just smells and feels wrong," said Scott Greenfield, a New York lawyer who is managing editor of Fault Lines, an online legal magazine. "When a rich guy can basically afford to bring down a media outlet, that has horrible social ramifications, even if the particular outfit is one that everybody hates, like Gawker."