Hulk Hogan Grilled About Sex-Filled TMZ, Howard Stern Interviews at Gawker Trial

Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media March 1 - AP Images - 2016
Scott Keeler/The Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool, File

Hulk Hogan was back in a Florida court Tuesday, taking questions on the witness stand to support his privacy lawsuit against Gawker for posting an excerpt of a sex tape involving him and his best friend's wife. 

Contrary to Monday, when Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) was able to present his life story as well as his shame and embarrassment at having 7 million people watch the scandalous video, the plaintiff endured some leg drops, body slams and clotheslines on cross-examination from Gawker's attorney Michael Sullivan. Hogan had to admit that the sex tape was a big topic in the media, that he personally discussed it on a publicity tour, and that he was fine with other reporters doing so as well. 

Around the time that Gawker posted the sex tape in October 2012, Hogan went on a TMZ show and joked, "Thank God it wasn't a guy." Hogan was asked about this interview and the slightly naughty video that accompanied it. Was that an invasion of privacy? Hogan explained that what TMZ was trying to do was to provide character-driven entertainment, comparing it to when he used to get into the wrestling ring with Ric Flair. "That's different than coming into a home and taking video," he said. "Having Hulk Hogan's rear end up there, I didn't think that was an invasion of Terry Bollea's privacy."

Yes, since the trial started, Hogan/Bollea has addressed questions on his life as if he suffers from a personality disorder. His role as an entertainer invites public attention, but it's the plaintiff's position that while "Hulk Hogan" might have given up his privacy, "Terry Bollea" is a private guy and there are some places, like his home — or the bedroom of Bubba the Love Sponge, the radio shock jock whose wife he slept with — that are sacrosanct. Given the fact that this is the first celebrity sex tape case to ever make it to trial (defying observers who thought the First Amendment would preclude such a spectacle), and given that Hogan is lucky enough to have a friendly home-state judge instruct the jury to focus on whether there was a morbid and sensational prying into Hogan's private life, the boundary between "newsworthy" and "indecency" is the essential issue at this trial. What's surprising is the extent to which Hogan's two sides have become a factor. 

As such, Hogan's publicity tour and semicooperation with other media outlets provided fodder for discussion during cross-examination. Gawker is attempting to establish he (Bollea) invited attention toward supposedly private matters and hardly objected when the media followed suit. Hogan says he "didn't have a problem" with TMZ writing about the sex tape despite at least one colleague in the wrestling industry who was telling him at the time that it was beneath him to give them an interview. Hogan also discussed a radio interview with Bubba the Love Sponge where the length of his penis came up. Hogan said that when he said it was 10 inches, that was for his Hulk character. "Terry Bollea’s penis is not 10 inches."

Hogan also had to address his interview with Howard Stern. Hogan says that in going on Stern's show, "You have to take the good with the bad," and when the sex tape came up, he wasn't happy, but "I was on an entertainment show, and I had to be an entertainer, so I just kept going.”

Sullivan asks, "At no point did you tell Stern this was an invasion of privacy?"

"I didn't want to bring Terry Bollea the man into the conversation," Hogan answered, explaining that he understands that although he was there on Stern's show to promote a wrestling event, he understood the host would be touching on other issues. "That's standard protocol," he says. "The publicist would address it with Howard. I wouldn't."

The jury also got to hear the curse-filled radio conversation between Hogan and Stern, where the two laughed at Hogan's commentary that TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) makes people think of "tits and ass" and also about Hogan's "tripod." (“I was joking about my penis, that’s what I was joking about," explained Hogan at trial.)

Hogan tried to assert that he didn't invite the discussion of sex, but Sullivan wasn't buying it, pressing him on the subject matter of his interviews and whether he was being forthright. 

"In that mode, it's entertainment. I'm in character. You have artistic liberty," he said, adding a bit later about his honesty, "Are we talking about the person or the character? The person sitting here under oath is Terry Bollea, and I don’t lie under oath."

Going for the kill, Sullivan said, "You knew this was hot news and when going into these interviews that they would be asking about the sex tape, didn't you?"

Hogan responded, "Yes, sir."

Sullivan also injected some "Streisand Effect" questioning by asking Hogan whether the lawsuit and press statements about Gawker's posting of the sex tape had the effect of increasing attention toward it. Hogan answered that he simply had to do something. "I don't think you could increase the attention more than Gawker did," said Hogan. "They did a pretty good job of getting it out there."

Hogan is seeking $100 million in damages — an amount that largely derives from a demand to compensate him for emotional trouble — but the wrestler also admitted that he never consulted a psychiatrist about his distress after the sex tape was published.