Here Are All the People Who Should Sue Gawker Media

Paul Kane/Getty Images
Paul Kane/Getty Images

What is it with Gawker? Are they just incompetent, or are they actually trying to get sued into bankruptcy?

The odious blog network has just added yet another powerful name to the growing list of people who ought to sue them, running a story outing Condé Nast CFO David Geithner as gay, including what purports to be a set of text messages between Geithner and a gay porn star who works as a male escort.

Geithner has a wife and kids, and Gawker has offered no public interest justification for outing him. He’s not a public figure or law enforcement official and has never spoken against LGBT rights. So there’s no argument he’s a hypocrite worth exposing. He’s just an accountant – for one of Gawker’s commercial rivals.

Worse, it seems the story may not even be true. According to at least one source, the male escort used by Gawker is a conspiracy theorist who delights in leading journalist and politicians astray with bogus stories.

Geithner, for his part, denies that any text messages between the “escort” and himself took place: “I don’t know who this individual is. This is a shakedown,” he told Gawker. They went ahead with the story anyway.

And Gawker knew it was a shakedown from the very beginning. The “escort” specifically told the blogging network that Geithner promised to take one of the escort’s conspiracy theories to President Obama if he got Gawker to kill the story.

Let that sink in for a second: the conspiracy theorist’s plan was to use Gawker as leverage over Geithner. And Gawker acted as a willing participant in gay extortion. A man’s reputation was held hostage at blogpoint and an editor went ahead and pulled the trigger, perhaps even knowing the story was shaky.

Evidently, Gawker is the kind of place where they hold up pictures of Sabrina Erdely and say: “Now this is how you do it!”

Many of my Twitter followers use “archive links” to deny advertising revenue to sites they dislike. It’s a way of producing a photocopy, if you like, of web content that does not generate new clicks, and therefore ad revenue, when readers visit.

I have in the past resisted using services like that out of journalistic solidarity. But after Gawker’s appalling story about David Geithner, there is no more solidarity to be had with them. No reputable journalist can recognise that company as a responsible reporting outlet.

From now on, it’s all the way.

It’s as though Gawker CEO Nick Denton has a death wish. I mean, I know liberals are obsessed with ending life, whether by abortion or euthanasia, but I didn’t realise that extended to their media properties.

Gawker’s latest blunder even threatens to turn GamerGate, the hashtag movement who cost the media company seven figures in revenue after an advertiser boycott last year, into unlikely heroes. A list of Gawker’s advertisers created by GamerGate last year is currently going viral on Twitter, even appearing in USA Today.

Journalists from other publications quickly began piling on.

Recognising the magnitude of the disaster, other Gawker writers have started to run for cover.

But it’s too late. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gawker. The company is currently facing a $100m lawsuit over their release of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape. Again, no public interest justification has been offered besides mentioning Hogan’s celebrity and his penchant for machismo bragging.

For Gawker to remind the world of its reputation for poorly researched, personally-invasive reporting at this moment is utter madness. But, you know what, I’m happy to play Dr. Kevorkian to Gawker’s suicidal tendencies.

Geithner and Hulk Hogan are well within their rights to sue. But they’re not the only ones.

In Jon Ronson’s acclaimed book on Twitter-shaming campaigns, Justine Sacco is the lead example. Sacco wasn’t particularly famous or powerful — she worked in corporate communications. But when Gawker’s Sam Biddle decided to publish a risqué joke she made on Twitter, he maliciously catapulted her into global infamy.

Within the space of a few hours, Sacco was rendered unemployable. One joke, magnified by Gawker for no good reason, had ruined Sacco’s career. Sacco has since made peace with Gawker, but after last night’s events, perhaps she could be persuaded to have second thoughts.

Dickinson is the male version of Sacco and the self-described “patient zero” of online shaming campaigns. Whereas Sacco had her career ruined by Gawker falsely accusing her of racism over un-PC jokes, Dickinson faced the same sort of public shaming over allegations of sexism, via Gawker’s Valleywag blog.

Strident defenses of his character from female co-workers were not enough to save Dickinson, who was fired and is now considered toxic to employers and investors. Another promising career ruined by Gawker, again for no good reason.

Quentin Tarantino has already sued Gawker, after they leaked the script of one of his movies, the Hateful Eight (2015). There is no question that the leak of the script caused damage to Tarantino’s business interests, but the cult film director decided to voluntarily withdraw his lawsuit in summer 2014. Perhaps it’s time for him to think again.

As the latest Gawker controversy unfolded, a former writer, Richard Lawson, took to Twitter to atone for his sins. “When I was at Gawker I wrote baseless posts accusing an actor of raping an ex-boyfriend”, wrote Lawson. “It did it [because] my boss told me to, but I wanted to too.”

That actor was James Franco. In 2008, Lawson authored a Gawker post entitled “The People Have Spoken, and They Think James Franco is a Rapist.” This followed fast on the heels of another post in which Lawson asked the question “Which Actor is Crazy, Violent, and Gay?”

Like the Geithner story, it was another attempted outing of someone who had not yet outed themselves (although Gawker once again got it wrong — James Franco is not gay). More to the point, it was another baseless accusation of rape. The Huffington Post thinks Franco should sue. I agree.

Brad Wardell is the CEO of Stardock Corporation, a software and gaming company. Gawker blog Kotaku almost ruined his career when they repeated false allegations that he had sexually harassed one of his employees. Kotaku gave him just one hour of working time to provide them with a comment. The lawsuit against Wardell was later dropped, and the woman who filed it publicly apologized for her claim.
Which news outlet is most famous for reporting rape allegations on the basis of hearsay alone, repeatedly, without apology? Rolling Stone? Well, maybe. But before Rolling Stone there was Gawker, which have so far published no less than three stories on allegations against Max Temkin, the man behind cult creation Cards Against Humanity. 

These allegations were made on a Facebook post, with no evidence, with no criminal charges filed. Gawker continues to report on them, and appears delighted that Temkin is being banned from conferences.

Gawker is one of Reddit’s harshest critics. Blogger Sam Biddle regularly accuses the site of racism and sexism, and Gawker writers frequently refer to its role in “The Fappening,” a mass leak of celebrity nudes.

But Gawker itself has one of the worst track records in the history of the media when it comes to respecting the privacy of celebrities. Hulk Hogan is just one example. Olivia Munn and Christina Hendricks also fell victim to Gawker’s creepy hunger for nudes. When hackers acquired their photos in 2012, Gawker wasted no time in publishing them.

Lenore Zann is a Canadian politician. Gawker published her nudes.

Michael Sam is a gay NFL player – the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. Gawker published his nudes.

The first is an actress, the second two are sportsmen, the fourth is an escort who had a fling with Justin Bieber. Yes, once again, Gawker published all their nudes. No reason. Just prurience and invasiveness.

Christine O’Donnell is a Republican activist and was a candidate in the 2010 Senatorial election for the state of Delaware.

In 2010, Gawker published an anonymous account of a one-night stand with O’Donnell, alleged to have happened during her college years. The reporting was so egregious that even left-leaning outlets like Salon and the New York Times condemned Gawker.
In 2006, Gawker went after the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. They weren’t going after her politics, though, for once: they were going after her nudes. Not for any good reason, you understand, just to embarrass her.

They acquired and published bikini pictures of an Asian college student, claiming it was Malkin. It wasn’t. (Top marks for racial sensitivity there.) Malkin was advised to sue, but decided against it. Maybe it’s time for her to revisit the case?

In 2008, Sarah Palin, then the Republican nominee for Vice President, suffered an email hack. While the hacker was caught and jailed, Gawker wasted no time in publishing hacked pictures of Palin’s family as well as their private email addreses. In modern web slang, that’s called “doxing.”

Gawker have also made repugnant comments about the pregnancy of Bristol Palin. You can’t sue for that, of course, but it’s worth remembering. Oh, I almost forgot. They also left prank messages on Bristol Palin’s phone, after her number was leaked. Responsible journalism in action.

In 2014, an anonymous source handed Gawker a tape which allegedly depicted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie involved in group sex [NSFW]. The tape was bogus, as was the story. The anonymous source also had a weird, baseless theory about Christie being tied to the Mob, and the video being part of an initiation theory.

Gawker admitted all of this in their story. But they ran it anyway, closing their story with the line: “This is what it would look like if Chris Christie ever got into the porn business.” Some self-identified baseless posts are just too good to kill, apparently.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, Gawker was determined to make the case for gun control. So they decided to reveal the personal locations of every gun owner in New York City.

Did you know Gawker has a news category called “Athlete Dong”? Well, they do. It’s where they post pictures of athlete’s penises. Without their permission and for no good reason at all. (Caution: the links below are very NSFW.)

So far, their list of victims includes Brett FavreRoy Jones JrMichael Sam and Australian footballers Nick Riewoldt, Nick Del Santo and Zac Dawson. They didn’t quite manage to get any shots of Josh Hamilton’s dong, but that didn’t stop them publishing a bunch of other personal photos.


You’re probably getting the message.

By all rights, Gawker ought to be drowning in lawsuits. But it isn’t just the complete disregard for privacy rights and basic standards of journalistic accuracy that make Gawker’s wrongdoing so egregious. It’s the rank hypocrisy.

Gawker spends much of its time lecturing millennials — the most tolerant generation alive — on why they should be less sexist, racist, and homophobic. When they cover expressions of millennial culture, like Reddit, 4chan, and GamerGate, they will make use of whatever sparse evidence they have to spin the story into one of sexism and racism.

Yet for all their virtue-signalling, it is Gawker who harasses people, it is Gawker who abuses people, and it is Gawker who slut-shames and gay-shames. And it is Gawker who repeatedly and habitually outs gay people, despite previously condemning the practice.

That this empire of digital narcissism and hypocrisy was ever taken seriously as a bastion of social justice is surely one of the most grimly ironic quirks in all of media history.

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