The Paypal cofounder, 48, spoke to The New York Times after a report surfaced that he secretly paid millions to support the wrestler’s lawsuit against Gawker for invasion of privacy after it published a sex tape featuring him and a woman who was not his wife.
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” said Thiel, who was outed as gay in a post on Gawker in 2007. The mogul, who was an early investor in Facebook, claims that that story and a series of articles about his friends “ruined people’s lives for no reason,” and prompted him to launch a secret war against the media company.
Thiel says that the Gawker stories were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted,” so he paid for a team of lawyers to find and help “victims” to launch cases against Gawker.
“I thought it was worth fighting back,” he added.
The Times confirms that Thiel paid roughly $10 million for Hogan’s lawsuit, which ended in March when the wrestler, 62, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, was awarded $140 million by a Florida court.
While Thiel has spoken out about protecting freedom of speech, he believes that “Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully.” He added that his financial backing of cases against the company is “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”
Gawker Media filed two post-trial motions in April, seeking to throw out the jury verdict in the Hogan trial, but they were denied by a judge on Wednesday.
In a statement to the Times, Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, said, “Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories including Hillary Clinton’s secret email account, Bill Cosby‘s history with women, the mayor of Toronto as a crack smoker, Tom Cruise‘s role within Scientology, the N.F.L. cover-up of domestic abuse by players and just this month the hidden power of Facebook to determine the news you see.”
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