ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. >> After years of wrangling, a legal fight will play out in a Florida courtroom between former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and the news and gossip website Gawker over a sex tape the celebrity made with the wife of radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
The ex-wrestler, whose legal name is Terry Bollea, sued Gawker after it published parts of the video in 2012. The video was recorded in 2006. He says his privacy was violated, but Gawker says the publication was a legitimate scoop because Hogan had talked openly about his sex life before.
Hogan is seeking $100 million from Gawker for posting the video of him and Heather Cole, the ex-wife of Clem, Hogan’s one-time friend.
Last June, Gawker founder Nick Denton told The Associated Press the fight for the right to publish the video was an important one, both for his news organization and the First Amendment. Denton says Gawker had the right to publish the edited video because Hogan talked in detail about his sex life before the video’s release, which made the story newsworthy.
“I care about the readers having the right to know both sides of a story,” he said. “Readers should also have the right to get the story behind the celebrity story.”
It’s still unknown how the video surfaced in the media. Although it was delivered to Gawker anonymously in 2012, other celebrity gossip sites had mentioned the video and at least one published photos.
Gawker posted a one-minute, 41-second clip from the full, 30-minute video.
The years-long lead-up to the trial has been messy, with attorneys for Hogan accusing Gawker’s lawyers of releasing confidential information to the media from the video. Some of that information included Hogan making racist remarks. Hogan suffered swift backlash; World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. severed ties with him. In a statement, Hogan apologized for using “offensive language.”
Gawker denied that its lawyers leaked the information and said that many people had copies of the video, along with the audio and the transcript.
Hogan, perhaps the biggest star in WWE’s five-decade history, was the main draw for the first WrestleMania in 1985 and was a fixture for years in its signature event, facing everyone from Andre The Giant and Randy Savage to The Rock and even company chairman Vince McMahon.
He won six WWE championships and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Sylvester Stallone.
But he was able to transcend his “Hulkamania” fan base to become a celebrity outside the wrestling world, appearing in numerous movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, “Hogan Knows Best.”