Thursday 29 September 2016

Hulk Hogan gives evidence in $100m sex tape trial

Published 08/03/2016 | 17:02

Terry Bollea, known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan
Terry Bollea, known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan

Former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan has given evidence in the second day of a trial in his lawsuit against media company Gawker Media over the publication of a sex video.

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The trial resumed in St Petersburg, Florida, with Hogan being cross-examined by Gawker lawyers.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is suing the New York-based website for posting an edited clip of a sex tape made of him and the wife of his then-best friend.

Gawker's lawyers played videos of Hogan doing interviews with celebrity news website TMZ and radio host Howard Stern about the sex tape.

"I was just trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Howard was making me laugh," Hogan said.

Hogan said that he was in his Hulk Hogan persona when he did the interviews, and made bawdy jokes in character.

"I didn't want to bring Terry Bollea the man, separate the character, in to the conversation," Hogan, 62, told the jury.

Gawker's lawyer also pressed Hogan about whether he asked the interviewers to not raise the issue of the sex tape. Hogan said he did not, that it was his publicist's job.

Although the trial has been full of salacious details - an interview on Tuesday mentioned Hogan's "thong-shaped tan line" that was visible in the video - it is also a serious First Amendment case. The core issue: Did Gawker have the right to post one minute and 41 seconds of the sex tape, approximately nine seconds of it actual sexual content?

Hogan and his lawyers say no, that Gawker invaded his privacy. He is suing Gawker for 100 million US dollars (£70 million), saying the posting of the video caused him severe emotional distress. If Gawker loses, the media empire could be in serious financial trouble.

Gawker says the publication was a legitimate scoop because Hogan had talked openly about his sex life before, in forums such as Howard Stern's radio show. The jury may have to grapple with questions about how celebrity affects expectations of privacy.

The lawyer for the New York-based website says Gawker has a right to address uncomfortable subjects, reject spin by celebrities and tell the truth.

Gawker's reporter, AJ Daulerio, posted the video to accompany a story about how celebrity sex tapes fascinate the public - while being lacklustre.

"Celebrity sex is incredibly dull," Gawker lawyer Michael Berry said.

Mr Berry said Gawker did not make money off the post. Advertisers do not post on Gawker's items that are labelled "NSFW", or "not safe for work".

Mr Berry also said news of the tape, including screen shots, was on other gossip sites before Gawker published the video.

He added that Gawker founder Nick Denton "wants people to know the truth. The simple unvarnished truth".

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Hogan attained pro wrestling stardom in the 1980s and 1990s, winning multiple championships. He also became a celebrity outside his "Hulkamania" fan base, appearing in movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, Hogan Knows Best.

As Hogan gave evidence, he told the jury about being poor, sleeping in his car while performing in small-town wrestling matches and finally getting his break when he was asked to appear in the third Rocky movie.

During cross-examination, a lawyer for Gawker questioned Hogan about inconsistencies in his evidence and media interviews.

Hogan said he did not watch the video when he discovered its existence but during a media interview he said he did.

And Hogan said he did not know he was being videoed when he had sex with Heather Clem. But in media interviews in 2012, Hogan said he asked Bubba Clem if he was being filmed.

Hogan said the inconsistencies were the result of being shell-shocked by the tape and because he routinely put himself in his wrestling character.

"I was probably in the Hulk Hogan mode," Hogan said. "It gives you artistic ability, to be a character."

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