Gawker’s latest attack on Fox News over a private employee dismissal is a reminder of the website’s lush history of lies, half-truths, and assorted personal attacks on public and private individuals they personally dislike.
The website prides itself on “gossip” and openly admits that it is “impossible” for them to have the “standards of accuracy” of other journalistic publications. This ethos has led to years of inaccurate, borderline libelous, or just plain disgusting reports on anyone they consider a target. Below are some of the most prominent examples from the site’s history:
1. Fox Mole ‘Scoops’: Romney’s Horse Hobby, Fox News Bathroom Photos
Gawker’s “Fox Mole,” Joe Muto, stood out from the crowd of history’s great leakers by just how profoundly banal his “scoops” ended up being, and how little he gained from smearing his own company. Gawker paid Muto $5,000 to show the world a video of Mitt Romney pleasantly discussing horseback riding with Sean Hannity and pictures of a generic looking bathroom stall. Definitely worth committing career suicide, right? Aside from losing his job and any chance at any other job in the industry, Muto had to plead guilty to breaching his contract with Fox News and pay a fine. Oh, and forfeit the $5,000.
It was a fun story to latch onto for a mainstream media who revels in ragging on Fox but ultimately did nothing to damage the reputation of anyone but Gawker (and Muto).
2. Christine O’Donnell ‘Exclusive’ On Her Dating Life
In perhaps Gawker’s most misogynistic attack on a conservative, they published a photo of the Delaware Senate candidate in a Halloween costume along with an anonymous source’s account of a romantic encounter with O’Donnell. The particulars of such encounters–and of O’Donnell’s body–were highlighted to inspire the average Gawker reader’s interest. Naturally, the National Organization for Women said nothing as the incident taught women once again they were not safe from objectification in the name of political slander.
3. Publishing Map Of Gun Owners In New York
Gawker seems to pride itself on the shaming of public persons, sometimes even above that of celebrities. For this next trick, they published the names of gun owners in various New York counties, labeling them “assholes” and complaining that NYPD did nothing about these gun owners’… lack of criminal activity? Just to emphasize that they wanted retributive action taken upon these people, the report encouraged someone to “throw [the addresses] up on Google Maps.”
4. Trying To Out The CIA Agent Who Helped Kill Bin Laden
Neither exactly a lie nor a smear, merely the invitation to danger of one of America’s finest modern heroes, whoever that may be. Gawker posted a photo of a man they alleged was a CIA agent involved in killing Osama Bin Laden. Some used this as a takeoff point from which to attack the CIA for letting this happen, others to try to inquire further into the agent’s identity.
5. Posting Fake Sarah Palin SAT Scores
Gawker was not alone in falling for this scam, but they did post what they alleged might be Sarah Palin’s report card from high school at the height of the 2008 campaign, crowdsourcing to their readers to figure out whether it was real or not. It wasn’t, but the damage to Palin’s reputation was done long before that correction.
6. Publishing Private Palin Family Photos
In 2008, at the height of the presidential campaign, Gawker got a hold of Sarah Palin’s private email account through a hacker. As Michelle Malkin explains, they used the information there to paint a negative, gross picture of the Vice Presidential candidate–but, more importantly, they used Bristol Palin’s cell phone number to post the girl’s voicemail message and published a number of private photos. The hacker responsible, David Kernell, was sentenced to a year in prison, though Gawker as a media outlet is safe.
7. Naming Wrong Woman As Mother Of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Lovechild
Flight attendant Tammy Tousignant found herself a household name suddenly in 2011 on account of Gawker’s shoddy reporting. Tousignant had worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s private jet, and Gawker accused her of being mother to the former California governor’s child. She was not, and she sued. In an exceedingly rare move for the blog, Gawker retracted the report and apologized.