The WGA East, which represents the editorial staff at Gawker Media, has issued a stinging rebuke of Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who admits to bankrolling Hulk Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit that resulted in a $140 million verdict against Gawker.
“Peter Thiel has all but confessed that his primary objective is Gawker’s demise,” the guild said. “Plutocrats already have outsized power in this country, and we cannot allow them to use their vast fortunes to silence media companies. We cannot let Peter Thiel heedlessly destroy one of the most original, intrepid digital media companies in modern journalism – regardless of whether or not we like everything that gets published there. It is imperative that the public know the extent of his efforts to silence the press. We call upon Peter Thiel to reveal all of the lawsuits he has funded.”
Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook, told The New York Times this week that he’d put up $10 million to cover Hogan’s legal expenses in his suit against Gawker, which had published a sex tape that Hogan appeared in. Gawker also addressed the situation today. “If you believe his interview with the New York Times,” J.K. Trotter wrote on Gawker.com, “Thiel’s willingness to bankroll litigation brought by Hulk Hogan and other plaintiffs stems from several posts, including a 2007 item about Thiel dating men, that have, in his words, ‘ruined people’s lives for no reason.’ But the record of Thiel’s past comments paints a much more complicated picture of his motivation to end Gawker for good.”
The cited 2007 post was headlined, “Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay, People.”
The Times quoted Thiel as saying: “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations. I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”
A Florida judge on Wednesday upheld the $140 million award to Hogan.