6:37am PT by Eriq Gardner
Gawker Agrees to Supplement Story About DailyMail.com in Settlement With Mail Online
Gawker.com may be dead, vanquished at the hands of Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel, but thanks to a settlement, there's something on the site that is about to change.
On Tuesday, Gawker Media submitted a motion in bankruptcy court to approve a settlement with Mail Online, the parent company of Daily Mail, which filed a libel lawsuit over a March 4, 2015, article by James King, headlined, "My Year Ripping Off the Web With the Daily Mail Online."
King, a former freelancer for Mail Online, penned a piece about lifting other publications' stories wholesale, writing that "the Mail's editorial model depends on little more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication."
Six months later, Mail Online filed a $1 million suit against Gawker and King. The case didn't get far because Gawker was wrapped up in separate litigation with Hulk Hogan over the posting of a sex tape. After Gawker experienced a $140 million judgment in the Hogan case, it declared bankruptcy, grounding the Daily Mail suit to a halt.
Gawker, which announced a $31 million settlement with Hulk Hogan earlier this month, has now come to terms with Mail Online. No money is exchanging hands, and there's no admission of wrongdoing, but Gawker is prepared to do something that it would have strongly resisted in its heyday.
According to court papers, Gawker has agreed to include an Editor's Note at the beginning of the King article, replace the illustration in the post with something that doesn't incorporate the Daily Mail's logo, and publish a statement by DailyMail.com in the same story. The agreement also stipulates that the article won't be moved from its current location on Gawker's website.
The statement from DailyMail.com begins, "We utterly refute James King's claim that DailyMail.com depends on 'disonesty, theft of copyright material', and the publication of material we 'know to be inaccurate'."
It then goes on for nearly 20 paragraphs and includes allegations that King threatened a woman editor with violence and that the Washington Post had rejected King's piece before it was published by Gawker. It also provides lengthy detail about supposed inaccuracies in King's piece. All this will be coming to Gawker.com, assuming a judge grants approval.
Gawker and Mail Media have some things in common despite being legal adversaries. In particular, they have both been on the receiving end of lawsuits filed by attorney Charles Harder, who not only represented Hulk Hogan, but also Melania Trump over a Daily Mail article suggesting the future First Lady once was an escort.
In fact, since no money is being paid, Gawker touts the Daily Mail settlement as benefiting its creditors, which include some of Harder's clients.
"Both Gawker and I stand behind the story," King tells THR. "Ideally we would have fought it all the way to the end because my story is 100 percent accurate. But the circumstances made settling the smart choice, and I'm satisfied with the outcome. Here's why: not a single word in my story was changed as a result of this settlement. Not one. This was a defamation lawsuit, meaning that the Mail claimed something in my story was maliciously libelous. Yet, they didn't change a single word. They didn't change anything in the story itself because they can't."