Hulk Hogan isn’t resting on the laurels of his $140 million trial victory against Gawker over the publishing of a sex tape. On Monday, the former professional wrestler (real name: Terry Bollea) brought a new lawsuit against Gawker and others over more disclosures in recent months.
On the verge of Hogan’s first trial, The National Enquirer and Radar Online reported he used the N-word and made racist comments about his daughter Brooke’s boyfriend in an extended transcript of the sex-tape footage. That revelation prompted Hogan to begin an investigation of the leak. Monday’s complaint, filed in Pinellas County, Fla., appears to be the culmination of these efforts.
Hogan alleges that the 2007 tape of his sexual encounter with the then wife of his former best friend, shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge, wound up in the hands of employees at Cox Radio, specifically Michael Calta aka “Cowhead” and Matthew Christian Loyd aka “Spice Boy,” who, according to the complaint, “communicated repeatedly regarding the formulation and execution of a plan to release the surreptitious recordings of [Hogan], including their strategy for releasing portions of same to media outlets for the purposing of causing substantial economic harm to Plaintiff, among others; while also furthering their own radio broadcasting careers.”
Back in 2012, Calta and Loyd were allegedly assisted by Tony Burton, a talent agent at Buchwald & Associates, who Hogan says communicated with Gawker’s then editor A.J. Daulerio. Within days, Calta, Loyd, Burton or Keith Davidson (a suspended lawyer retained by them) allegedly sent Gawker a DVD of a more than 30-minute Hulk Hogan sex tape.
As Gawker published a short excerpt — which led to Hogan’s privacy lawsuit, where he got a $140 million verdict — Hogan says he received a $1 million demand from these Cox employees.
“Davidson, representing and acting on behalf of and in concert with the Extortionists, also told Plaintiff’s counsel that the Extortionists … arranged for the 30 Minute Video to be sent to Gawker as a ‘shot across the bow’ as part of the scheme to extort money from Plaintiff,” states the complaint.
Hogan went to state and federal law enforcement, who he says advised him about the limited statute of limitations in explaining why they wouldn’t prosecute. But the FBI arranged a sting operation occurring at a Clearwater Beach, Fla., hotel. As the FBI recorded the encounter, Hogan’s lawyer handed over a $150,000 check with a commitment for another $150,000 in return for the salacious materials.
Last year, the results of FBI’s investigation came up in the battle between Hogan and Gawker.
With just weeks to go before a trial originally scheduled for last July, Gawker filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI in hopes of obtaining the results of its Hogan investigation.
“It became clear that Gawker misrepresented the reason why it was seeking discovery of the FBI extortion investigation and operation,” states the new Hogan lawsuit. “Gawker, having become aware through discovery in the Prior Action that other surreptitious recordings seized during the FBI sting operation purportedly contained racially insensitive statements by Plaintiff, used the Gawker-FBI Action to try to gain access to video and/or audio footage of Plaintiff making such statements, so Gawker could use such statements against Plaintiff to destroy him publicly and as leverage to try to force Plaintiff to settle or drop his claims heading into a jury trial in the Prior Action.”
According to Hogan, Gawker repeatedly threatened him that it would go public about his racially insensitive comments. Gawker has presented the situation differently, saying that the racist comments reveal Hogan’s true motivation for filing a lawsuit and demonstrate his lack of harm about what it published. Regardless of why Gawker pursued discovery, until an appeals court intervened, Hogan was able to get the judge to confer confidentiality on these FBI materials. This meant that Gawker couldn’t disclose what it had learned about the FBI investigation nor present these materials at trial. At the time, Gawker also was contending with backlash from a story it published about a Conde Nast executive’s relationship with a gay porn star.
“Gawker found just the solution,” continues the complaint. “Dylan Howard, a senior editor at The National Enquirer and its sister publication RadarOnline.com, who was a personal friend of Daulerio at the time, gave notice to Plaintiff’s counsel on July 23, 2015, that the Enquirer intended to publish excerpts from the very court-protected, confidential, ‘sealed’ transcript that Gawker had been threatening to release publicly for months.”
Hogan asserts that this story deflected attention from the blowback over its Conde Nast article and points to a July 24, 2015, blog post by Gawker founder Nick Denton that Hogan’s “real secret” would come out as well as tweets around the same time from Daulerio. He’s alleging Gawker “participated in, facilitated and/or contributed to the use and public dissemination of the content of court-protected confidential transcript to the Enquirer,” which he says harmed his brand and caused the termination of his endorsement contracts and relationship with the WWE. Hogan adds that Gawker’s strategy was to “deliberately and repeatedly” file materials containing Hogan’s offensive language with knowledge that the media would seek to obtain or unseal such materials. “Gawker’s plan succeeded,” he says.
Hogan is now suing Buchwald, the Cox employees and Davidson for invasion of privacy while targeting Gawker for intentional interference with contractual relations and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This is getting ridiculous,” responds Gawker in a statement. “Hulk Hogan is a litigious celebrity abusing the court system to control his public image and media coverage. It was absurd enough that Hulk Hogan claimed $100m for emotional distress and economic damage for a story about a sex life that he’d already made public. Now Hulk Hogan is blaming Gawker for racist remarks he made on another sex tape, which Gawker never had. As we’ve said before and are happy to say again: Gawker did not leak the information. It’s time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan.”