Recode executive editor Kara Swisher gave a wide-ranging interview to embattled Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton at the Code 2016 conference without revealing to viewers Denton owned shares in Recode’s parent company, Vox Media.
Gawker has since filed for bankruptcy after a jury awarded professional wrestler Hulk Hogan $140 million in punitive damages for publishing a secretly-recorded sex tape. Tech billionaire Peter Thiel helped Hogan fund the lawsuit, explaining to the New York Times in part, “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations.” Gawker plans to appeal.
Part of Denton’s assets include 5,000 shares of Vox Media, according to Politico. He didn’t disclose this fact during the interview. The Code 2016 conference overview and speakers were listed on conferences.voxmedia.com.
“Re/code generates most of its revenue through its events business, not advertising, which pulls in A-list executive speakers such as Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook. It will likely become Vox’s conference arm and its brand will stay intact,” Business Insider wrote after Vox Media bought up Recode in 2015.
Prominent critics of Gawker quickly pointed out the conflict of interest, slamming Denton and Swisher. One of them was Pax Dickinson, former Chief Technology Officer for Business Insider:
Throughout the code 2016 interview, Denton sat beside an empty chair meant for Thiel, who declined to “debate” Denton. But Dickinson, one of Denton’s witch hunt victims, volunteered to appear at conference, with $10,000 for charity if Recode accepted:
Dickinson was not invited to challenge Denton, but sent Swisher his questions. During the interview, however, Swisher read Dickinson’s questions to Denton — rushing through them as if they were a joke.
“So, how many people think you completely deserve this? That you all went beyond the pale. I’ve gotten emails from lots of people who think you’ve wronged them. This one is from Pat, uh, Pax Dickinson, you remember? You remember Pax?” asked Denton.
“Who tweeted, and was then fired as CTO of Business Insider,” Denton said, “and we committed the great offense of doing stories about the tweets that got him fired.”
Denton disingenuously framed it precisely backwards: The Gawker blog Valleywag sparked a social media shaming firestorm in September 2013 when it “just noticed” Dickinson’s satirical and provocative tweets, denouncing him as “homophobic, racist, misogynistic, classist” for mocking Mel Gibson meltdowns and criticizing feminism in tech.
Swisher rattled off Dickinson’s questions to Denton without pausing for his response: “Have you ever had a sleepless night because you regretted something Gawker published or hurt someone? Do you think Gawker’s business model depends on hurting people and would Gawker be where it is today had it not profited from hurting people? Secretly recording yourself and your partner having sex without his knowledge then publishing the tape, is that sex abuse?”
Denton asked Swisher to “summarize” Dickinson’s questions. “He thinks you’re an asshole,” she said as the audience chuckled.
Denton pivoted: “Do you want to summarize what the stories were?” Swisher said she didn’t remember.
Breitbart News reached out to Swisher to ask about the appropriateness of giving a softball interview to an infamous media figure that owns shares in her parent company’s stock without disclosing this fact to viewers:
Does Recode earn much of its revenue by attracting high-interest speakers, such as Gawker founder Nick Denton, for Vox Media events?
Why didn’t you or Denton disclose during your June 2 interview that Vox Media acquired Recode last May, and that Denton owns thousands of shares of Vox Media?
Were your questions and Denton’s answers in any way influenced by this? Why or why not?
Is it important for viewers to know Denton owns shares in Recode’s parent company? Why or why not?
A Vox Media spokesperson told Breitbart News that even if Swisher knew about the shares, she didn’t owe it to the public to disclose this fact: “Kara was not aware of the shares, and had no duty disclose even if she was. His holdings simply are not large enough to require any such disclosure, and have no impact whatsoever on the governance of the company.”
Dickinson has since co-launched the crowdfunding research company WeSearchr, which has raised $50,350 for evidence Denton committed a federal crime, especially regarding tax laws, since Denton reportedly stashed cash overseas before the Hulk Hogan verdict.