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Hulk’s existential crisis: How the lawsuit against Gawker could impact privacy, newsworthiness, and the meaning of ‘public figure’

by AirTalk®

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Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016 in St Petersburg, Florida. Pool/Getty Images

Hulk Hogan has wrestled some big, strong men in his life, from ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage to the 7’4”, 520 lb. Andre the Giant, who Hogan famously body slammed at Wrestlemania III in one of pro wrestling’s most iconic moments.

To beat his latest opponent, however, Hogan’s going to need much more than brute strength.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing Gawker Media for $100 million dollars for invasion of privacy after Gawker posted a sex tape in 2012 featuring Hogan and woman who would eventually be identified as Heather Clem, the wife of radio personality and Hogan’s then-best friend Bubba the Love Sponge Clem. Gawker, a blog focusing on news and media gossip in Manhattan, also owns sites like the sports blog Deadspin the feminist site Jezebel and the tech blog Gizmodo. Its owners have said that the company doesn’t have $100 million to pay damages if it were ruled against and says it would likely be forced to shut down if a jury were to find in Hulk’s favor.

At the center of the case are issues concerning privacy, free speech, and newsworthiness. Hogan says he didn’t know he was being filmed during the sex act, and that Gawker violated his right to privacy by posting a clip from it online. He also argued that Terry Bollea, the private citizen, is owed a level of privacy that Hulk Hogan, his public persona, is not. Gawker says that because Hogan has publicly discussed his sex life on platforms like The Howard Stern Show, he has made it newsworthy and therefore they had a right to publish the tape. Hogan had also publicly denied the tape’s existence in the past, and Gawker says that forced its hand into publishing it.

Who do you think has the better legal argument? Can a celebrity like Hogan who has a public persona expect a different level of privacy when he/she is not in character?

Guests:

Mary Anne Franks, professor of law at the University of Miami (FL)

Jeff John Roberts, law and policy reporter at Fortune Magazine and an attorney licensed in New York State and Ontario, Canada; his latest piece is “Gawker is right, Hulk Hogan is wrong

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