Gawker’s brand of “journalism” - we use the term loosely, but doesn’t everyone these days? - has always made us uncomfortable.
Celebrity stalking and sex tapes are hardly the legacy of Ida Tarbell, Edward R. Murrow and other muckrakers.
Nevertheless, recent reports stir sympathies for the publication and its founder, Nick Denton.
Fortune, the New York Times and other outlets reported Wednesday that billionaire Paul Thiel had funded a series of lawsuits against Gawker, the most notable being that of wrestler Hulk Hogan, who won a $115 in damages for violation of privacy.
In an interview with Adam Ross Sorkin, Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook, confirmed the reports.
Thiel has had a grudge against Gawker since it outed him as gay in a 2007 article.
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel told Sorkin. “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.”
The revelations followed a Tuesday report in the Times in which Denton voiced a hunch that financing for the suits came from someone in Silicon Valley.
“If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases,” Denton said.