What We Learned During the First Week of Hulk Hogan's Gawker Trial

A deep dive into a gossip website

Hulk Hogan is suing Gawker for $100 million. Getty Images

It's the kind of story Gawker would love to cover, involving celebrities, a sex tape and a multi-million dollar lawsuit. This time, however, Gawker just happens to be the defendant.

Hulk Hogan finally got his day in court this week—several days in fact, as the former professional wrestler argued his case in his $100 million lawsuit against Gawker Media for publishing his sex tape in 2012. The New York-based gossip, politics and media site presents its case to a jury in St. Petersburg, Fla., next week, with former editor A.J. Daulerio, and others from Gawker, taking the stand.

The nine jurors—six women and three men—have heard testimony about genitalia, how young is too young to publish a sex tape, and when Hulk Hogan stops being Hulk Hogan and starts being Terry Bollea. The jury was also treated to an explanation of the acronyms "WTF" and "NSFW." 

As the first week of the trial comes to a close, here are some of the more noteworthy things we learned:

He's Hulk Hogan in public, but Terry Bollea in the bedroom

Much of Gawker's defense rests on the fact that Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, has consistently discussed his sex life in public. But Bollea is arguing that in those public appearances, he was still in character as Hulk Hogan. It's called "Kayfabe," an old pro wrestling rule where the wrestlers must stay in character even when theyr'e away from the ring.

In probably the most ridiculous example of Bollea's "double-life" as Hulk Hogan, Gawker attorney Michael Sullivan asked Bollea about one of his appearances on Bubba the Love Sponge's show in which he discusses the size of his penis. When pressed about this specific appearance, Bollea said he was doing the interview in character.

"It's not mine, because mine isn't that size. We were discussing the length of Hulk Hogan's," he said, which caused Sullivan, seemingly dumbfounded, to reply, "Seriously?"

But when it comes to the sex tape, Hogan considers that an invasion of his personal life since he was not "Hulk Hogan."

However, Sullivan then pressed him on an interview he did on Howard Stern's show days after the tape was published, where he discussed it. "I was on an entertainment show and I had to be an entertainer, so I just kept going," Hogan said.

Inner workings of Gawker, out in the open

Hogan's team tried to give Gawker some of its own medicine.

Gawker's editorial staff was put on full display, most notably with the taped deposition of former editor A.J. Daulerio. Hogan's team tried to paint them as unsympathetic and heartless. In one of the depositions, Daulerio describes how Gawker obtained the sex tape and what went into the decision to publish it.

Daulerio said he was "very enthusiastic" about writing about the tape, and that he "enjoyed watching the video. I found it very amusing," he added.

The jury also learned this wasn't the first time Gawker published a sex tape. In 2010, a college student pleaded with Daulerio to remove a video, in which she appeared. The site eventually did after surmising she may have been raped.

But the most salacious part of Daulerio's testimony came when he was asked at what age he would draw the line when it comes to publishing a sex tape. Daulerio sarcastically responded age 4.

The depositions of executive editor John Cook (who was a reporter when the Hogan tape was published) revealed even more into the inner workings of Gawker, and a reminder to all journalists everywhere: What happens on the internet stays there forever. As part of their preparation for the trial, Hogan's attorneys were allowed to parse through Gawker's chat transcripts on Campfire, a group chat platform.

Cook was asked to explain numerous jokes and lewd photos that surrounded Gawker's Campfire discussion of the sex tape. One of those jokes by Daulerio involved Hogan's penis "wearing a little do-rag" (this phrase was uttered more than a few times). 

Hogan's expert journalism witness backfired

With Gawker staking its defense on the First Amendment, Hogan attempted to call into question Gawker's credibility as a journalistic organization. To do so, they hired Mike Foley—at $350 an hour—a journalism professor at the University of Florida and former editor of the St. Petersburg Times.

But when he was cross-examined, however, Foley came off as out of touch with the current media landscape and said he agreed to be a witness for Hogan before reading Gawker's post or watching the video. Foley was visibly uncomfortable. And it didn't help Hogan's case when Foley admitted he hadn't worked in a newsroom in 24 years.

Especially damning for Hogan, was that Sullivan, Gawker's attorney, got Foley to agree with him on a several key points, including the underlying story of Hogan's sexual encounter being newsworthy;

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