Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against online media company Gawker is set to begin on Monday, March 7, 2016. The $100-million defamation and invasion of privacy trial will take place near Hogan's hometown in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In 2006, Hogan had sex with Heather Clem, the wife of radio personality, Bubba 'The Love Sponge' Clem. The sexual encountered was captured on video and Gawker published portions of the sex tape six years later. Hogan claims that Gawker has violated his privacy, damaged his reputation, and caused him severe emotional and mental distress.
The New York Times paints the legal battle as an unprecedented conflict between personal privacy and freedom of expression in the Internet Era. On one hand, Hogan claims that the privacy of every American is at stake in the trial, as nothing would be private if Gawker prevails. On the other hand, Gawker avers that the freedom of the press will be further eroded if Hogan is victorious.
Gawker argues that Hogan's sex life is fair game for journalists insofar as Hogan talking about such matters to the media in the past has made his sexual exploits a matter of public concern in constitutional law terms. Hogan counters that publicly talking about his sex life should not open the door for the likes of Gawker to publish the sex tape without his permission.
Hogan's lawyer, David R. Houston, stated "there's a world of difference between discussing something and showing a pornographic video".
Tom Kludt, writing for CNNMoney, indicated that the trial will be "rife with drama", as the case will be a lightning rod for media attention. Both Hogan and Bubba 'The Love Sponge' are scheduled to take the stand. After initially claiming that Hogan was aware that the sex tape would be made, the leader of the so-called Bubba Army changed course, stating that Hogan was unaware of the tape when the two settled their lawsuit in 2012.
Also, CNNMoney reports that Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker will begin Monday despite ongoing problems with jury selection. On Thursday, approximately seven hours of questioning failed to yield a six-person jury and 36 prospective jurors were removed from the pool. Apparently, the salacious details of the case, and the fact that jurors will be required to view the sex tape at issue during the trial, have led otherwise eligible jurors to step down due to their inability to remain impartial.
damien demento contributed to this article.