Gawker's Nick Denton Challenges Peter Thiel to an Open Debate

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Nick Denton (left), Peter Thiel

Gawker writes an open letter to Thiel after the billionaire admitted to funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against the media company.

A day after Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel admitted to funding Hulk Hogan's $140 million lawsuit against Gawker, the media company has issued him a challenge: "Let us have an open and public debate."

In an open letter written by founder Nick Denton, he admits to outing the PayPal co-founder (and "thin-skinned billionaire") as gay, but argues that it was for Thiel's benefit:

"Nearly a decade ago, after you had opened up to friends and colleagues, a gay writer for Gawker shared an item with the readers of Valleywag, a section for news and gossip about the rich and powerful of Silicon Valley. 'Peter Thiel, the smartest VC in the world, is gay,' wrote Owen Thomas. 'More power to him.' And more power did indeed come to you. Your investments in Facebook and other companies have given you a net worth of more than $2 billion. You have tapped some of that fortune to support gay groups such as HomoCon. It is now clear that gay people are everywhere, not just in industries such as entertainment, but at the pinnacles of Silicon Valley power."

Denton adds that he "thought we had all moved on," but "for someone who aspires to immortality, nine years may not be such a long time as it seems to most of us." 

As for the news that Thiel backed Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, Denton says that "Your revenge has been served well, cold and (until now) anonymously."

The letter also calls out several Silicon Valley figures and defends Gawker's coverage of their lives ("I can see how irritating Gawker would be to you and other figures in the technology industry") before attacking Thiel. "Yes, Gawker has often been critical. Our writers have derided your views on female suffrage, mocked the libertarian separatist vision of offshore seasteads free of government interference, and questioned some of the businesses you have backed. There is much more. They don’t find you very likable."

In the end, Denton proposes a debate:

"I’m going to suggest an alternative approach. The best regulation for speech, in a free society, is more speech. We each claim to respect independent journalism, and liberty. We each have criticisms of the other’s methods and objectives. Now you have revealed yourself, let us have an open and public debate. The court cases will proceed as long as you fund them. And I am sure the war of headlines will continue. But, even if we put down weapons just for a brief truce, let us have a more constructive exchange."