Nick Denton isn't backing down in Gawker Media's bitter fight with billionaire Peter Thiel.
In an interview on "CBS This Morning," Denton, co-founder and CEO of the embattled digital media company, dismissed the technology entrepreneur's characterization of Gawker as a "bully" that unfairly targets people.
"I think it's a little rich for somebody worth $2.7 billion to spend a portion of their fortune really to describe anybody else as a bully," he said, arguing that Thiel benefits from "free press in this country."
Denton added that most of the roughly 1 million stories Gawker has published since its launch in 2002 have consisted of video game reviews, articles about cars and other standard media fare. He also highlighted its news coverage, including a recent scoop by Gizmodo about how Facebook treats news deemed of interest to conservatives.
Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook (FB), has acknowledged funding a lawsuit by former wrestler Terry Bollea, known professionally as Hulk Hogan, along with other litigation against Gawker. A jury in March awarded Bollea $140 million for invasion of privacy after the media outlet posted a 2007 video of him having sex with the wife of a friend, Tampa radio personality Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.
The tech investor's move to fund Bollea's suit followed a story by Gawker-owned Valleywag, a since-shuttered news and gossip site focused on Silicon Valley, that Thiel is gay. But Denton denied that Valleywag "outed" Thiel, claiming that he identified himself as gay to New Yorker magazine in 2003 and that he was open about his sexuality among friends.
"If you actually read the piece, the piece written by a gay writer -- I'm gay myself -- written by a gay writer was a piece celebrating the fact that the most talented venture capitalist in Silicon Valley was gay in a largely straight male world -- that he was gay," Denton said. "I think that's as worthy of note as whether somebody, whether Carly Fiorina was the first powerful female executive in Silicon Valley. It's not something to be ashamed of. It's not something shameful and I think it's actually weird for people to behave like it is."
Gawker has hired an investment bank to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale. During the Bollea trial, the company's worth was estimated at $83 million. Along with Gawker.com, its sites include Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jezebel and Lifehacker.
Gawker is appealing the ruling, and Denton said the company expects the $140 million judgment to be overturned.
"We published snippets of a sex tape to accompany a story about this famous, famous wrestler who had talked a lot about his sex life, made it a matter of public interest, and the relationship that he had with his best friend and his best friend's wife," Denton said. "We thought it was a valid story -- we still think it is. A federal judge deemed it newsworthy, and we believe [an] appeals court will find the same.
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