10:15am PT by Eriq Gardner
Peter Thiel Explains His Backing of "Single-Digit Millionaire" Hulk Hogan
Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel spoke of the plight of the less fortunate at a press conference on Monday.
“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” he said. “It costs too much.”
The remark came at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where Thiel detailed why he's supporting the presidential bid of Republican nominee Donald Trump. Given the venue, reporters were also interested to hear about Thiel's decision to pump millions into Hogan's legal campaign again Gawker Media over the publishing of a sex tape excerpt. Thanks to a $140 million judgment in the case, Gawker shut down, declared bankruptcy and sold most of its assets to Univision.
Thiel's argument that Hogan couldn't prevail against Gawker on his own is basically the same one — maybe more colorfully phrased — given to The Hollywood Reporter by Charles Harder, Hogan's lawyer.
"[Hogan] needed help from someone because Gawker didn't bat an eyelash spending $10 million trying to beat him," said Harder in September. "The deck is stacked against plaintiffs. I don't know too many people who can combat $10 million. And I have to say, they drove up the bills. They were the ones bringing motion after motion, taking subpoenas, making 10 to 15 appeals on every issue. What Peter Thiel was able to do was level the playing field. That's all he did."
At Thiel's press conference, he also echoed the sentiment that the First Amendment doesn't protect Gawker from intruding upon a celebrity's privacy by posting a sex tape.
"I strongly believe in the First Amendment. I believe journalists are a privileged group in our society. They play an important role in getting us information in our system of checks and balances,” said Thiel. “But these were not journalists."
As previously reported, Gawker is currently investigating Thiel's role in funding litigation against the news company with an eye on a possible lawsuit against Thiel. A bankruptcy judge has been asked to authorize discovery. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15 with objections due a week before. Thiel is being represented by attorneys at Skadden Arps.