Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (2017) Movie Script

So this is what I received.
"We placed a hold on your account
to comply with a court order
received on August 8, 2016.
Unfortunately, you can't use money
that has a hold on it.
The following funds
may be greater than/less than
the actual money in your accounts."
"Two hundred and thirty million,
two hundred thousand dollars
is the amount of the hold.
We may also charge you zero dollars
for a legal processing fee."
Which was nice of them.
You know, I got this FedEx letter
sent to me last Friday.
From a person I don't know.
"It's hard to believe
you're in this terrible situation,
but maybe when this is over, you'll
have enough bizarre Florida material
to write a Carl Hiaasen-esque novel.
Look, I know it's weird to send strangers
things in the mail.
Just wanted to say your writing has
brought me a lot of joy in the years."
But, yeah, she sent me 200 bucks in cash.
You know, I don't even know this person.
This is just something
that I'm caught in the middle of,
and trying to figure out
the best way to get through it.
I found out
that it was actually going to trial.
I knew right then that something
really bad was going to happen.
Don't be fooled into thinking
that, just because this case
is so sleazy and rests on sex,
that it's not important.
This is one of the most important
First Amendment cases
in American history.
Hulk Hogan,
one of the greatest wrestlers of all time,
just got totally sucker punched.
Hogan is suing
the website Gawker
for publishing a video
that shows him having sex
with the former wife of radio personality
Bubba The Love Sponge.
He had sex with his
best friend's wife and he agreed to it.
It's the first
celebrity sex tape case to go to trial.
It put Internet privacy
in a battle against freedom of the press.
...withheld from the jury.
There's a mechanism
through which a billionaire
can game the judicial system
to go after journalism it doesn't like.
They knew
exactly what they were doing.
I wasn't in line with them politically
as a columnist.
I was more feisty
than they were used to.
For whatever reason,
I was perceived as an enemy.
We're talking about
more than just a trial or an election
or even freedom of the press itself.
We're talking about
the very notion of truth.
Build the wall!
What is true?
I will kick your ass.
What is false? What is reality?
It does worry me,
that five, ten, twenty years from now,
we will look back and say,
"Oh, this was the beginning of that:
when the nature of the freedom
of press in America changed."
Our society really needs
strong, independent,
and adversarial journalism,
and if we lose that, we will be very much
poorer and very much endangered.
Not my president!
People need to realize
that this is under threat right now.
Fuck the media!
Fuck you!
This is the media's fault!
It's your fault!
Because you caused this!
You media people caused this
to create ratings!
And you have created this!
All of you, you're fucking liars.
Journalism, you know, real journalism,
the kind of journalism that exposes things
that powerful people don't want known... a very fragile thing.
Sir, I want to talk to you.
Do not arrest me.
It's a very rare thing.
It doesn't happen most of the time
and it can disappear very easily.
I have never heard or seen
such outrageous, vicious,
distorted reporting.
The world's most dishonest people
are back there. Look at the cameras.
I would never kill them.
I would never do that.
Let's see...
There was political traction
to be won
by essentially conducting cultural war
against big media.
That's become a standard way
of doing politics.
Can you turn her microphone off, please?
Turn her microphone off so I can talk?
We are going
to open up those libel laws, folks.
And we are going to have people sue you
like you have never got sued before.
The Gawker vs.
Hulk Hogan/Terry Bollea case
happened against a backdrop
of distrust of the media.
Hulk Hogan filed
two lawsuits today in Tampa, Florida.
The first lawsuit was filed
in the Florida State Court.
It was filed against Heather Clem
and her ex-husband, Todd Alan Clem,
also known as Bubba The Love Sponge.
The allegations in that lawsuit
state that approximately six years ago,
the Clems secretly videotaped
Mr. Hogan
having private, consensual intimate
relations in a private bedroom.
The second lawsuit filed today
was filed in the United States District
Court for the middle district of Florida.
It was filed against Gawker Media
and its related entities and individuals.
There were many things
brought into play here
and so many things at stake.
You have questions of where lines
are drawn for privacy
in an age of immediate broadcasting.
You have the question of
who gets to set the taste for the country.
What's appropriate?
You have the question of
to what degree is sex
a matter of public concern
when it occurs in private domain?
There's the question of
what an independent publisher can do
without the backing
of some sort of wealthy billionaire.
- Good morning, Mr. Bollea.
- Morning, guys.
- How you doing?
- All is well.
Anything you want to say
to your fans...
Yeah, I'm getting ready.
I'm training for another title shot.
- Title?
- Getting in shape.
Belly is gone, arms are jacked up.
Yeah, just looking
for another giant to slam.
So you have all these different dynamics
sort of colliding
in this courtroom in Florida.
And you knew from the day it started
that it was going to be an important one,
but also a fascinating one.
Big stories where big issues are at stake
don't often resolve themselves
into perfectly neat morality tales, right?
Could you describe the character
"Hulk Hogan" for the jury, please?
Um, the character is larger than life.
It's the all-American character,
the theme of the training, prayers,
and vitamins and "believe in yourself"
is like what we've called "The Four
Demandments" of the Hulk-a-Maniacs.
And the all-American image
of the character
is, tan, full head of hair, used to, um...
Just... Even my theme song was
"Fight for the rights of everyman."
He's the all-American hero in a nutshell,
the character Hulk Hogan.
It's hard to overstate just
what a big deal Hulk Hogan was
at his peak in the '80s
and the early '90s.
Weighing 320 pounds,
the Incredible Hulk Hogan!
He was
the centerpiece of the WWF
going from being a very successful,
because it was in major population bases,
but a regional company,
into being a national
and then international company.
What's going to happen?
You shall feel the wrath of Hulk-o-mania.
This is where the power lies!
They needed the biggest,
most charismatic star they could find,
and they lured away Hulk Hogan.
And he was the key to that.
Making more money
than any wrestler ever had before.
Who's your favorite rocking wrestler?
Yeah, the Rock
didn't have his own cartoon.
He had his own line of vitamins,
one of the biggest selling lines
of children's vitamins in the country.
He was always on in public
in a way that a lot of wrestlers are,
but it was almost different for him.
Like, he just couldn't cease
being Hulk Hogan.
And whether it was on The Tonight Show
or doing deodorant commercials,
or whatever, he's Hulk Hogan,
he's never Terry Bollea.
Look at that!
I can't believe that!
Does your license say "Hulk"?
Sure. No, it doesn't. It says Terry.
-Terry Hulk Hogan.
They know that, man.
That's no surprise. They know that.
2007 is a very weird
time period for Hulk Hogan.
There are a lot of things going on.
His marriage is falling apart
while his family
is shooting a reality show.
He was clearly not doing great.
-I'm over it.
-I'm done with it.
You have a Florida jury
that's more accustomed to Terry Bollea,
or we know as Hulk Hogan,
as a hometown star.
And a kind of disdain
for these guys tromping in
from the media capital of the world
and thinking
they can just play with somebody's life,
as though they're just characters
on a screen.
...nothing but the truth,
so help you God?
I do.
I was always a geek.
I was a technology obsessive.
I used to...
When I was in Budapest,
I used to get the train to Vienna
to pick up Wired magazine because
I was kind of obsessed about technology.
So from about 1996, I was writing
about the Internet and technology,
and then I lobbied to be based
in Silicon Valley in San Francisco
in order to be closer
to the center of the action there.
I came from a traditional British
newspaper journalism background.
Seeing the first blogs,
the barrier between the thought,
the idea and the page
and potentially to millions of readers,
the barriers had all come down.
A complete revolution.
We launched Gizmodo, a tech site,
and then,
which became our flagship news site.
My idea was a very basic one.
What if you were to actually
take the stories that don't get published,
the stories that journalists exchange
amongst themselves?
A behind-the-scenes look
at what's really going on.
Everybody knows
what usually appears,
certainly in the establishment media,
bears very little resemblance
to what's really going on.
We were both outsiders
who, I think, gravitated to New York
for similar reasons.
Both of us would latch onto
the specific things about New York culture
that made it unique and hilarious
and very often just absurd.
We had no idea
that it was going to explode.
I think people reacted to it
partly because of the tone.
For people who consider Gawker frivolous,
they felt like it was, you know,
people going from eating their vegetables
to, you know, mainlining heroin.
The whole idea
was to flout convention,
to thumb its nose at the establishment,
at the expected mores,
at how a proper press
was supposed to behave.
What respect do you afford a person
who is, to some degree,
or significant degree, public?
But that was a consistent theme.
Where's the line?
I definitely cultivated an image
as a...
a publisher
who always puts the story first,
which can come across as being ruthless.
We publish stories ahead of
maintaining relationships with people,
without access, favor, or discretion.
The mean girls who just, you know,
ran the show,
laid waste to everyone they saw, you know,
that's Gawker.
They rule the playground.
It's partly because
they'll say unspeakable things.
I went on to see what was there today,
and it just said how fat Kevin Costner was
and it had a picture
of Jabba the Hut next to him.
I just want you
to think about your life and...
-You know, weigh your options and...
Because I would hate
to see you arriving in hell
and somebody sending a text message
saying, "Guess who is here?"
When the story comes out
that people don't like,
it's convenient to say, "Oh, this is
a journalism organization beyond the pale"
or "This story is mean spirited."
You know what,
the world is mean sometimes,
people are mean,
the participants are mean.
Sometimes, actually, the truth is ugly.
What do you want?
What excited me about Gawker
was I did a story on Bill O'Reilly.
And someone said,
after the story came out,
"No one punches Bill O'Reilly
in the face."
And I was like, "Well, yeah,
I just punched him in the face."
I wanted to write
true things about bad people.
And that's what Gawker gave us all
the freedom to do.
To look at people
who were full of shit,
full of hot air,
abusing their power.
You know, being bad
or obnoxious, or cruel or unkind,
and we could give them what for.
Internet culture, there's so much,
just bullshit, and hot air.
There's so much, just fakery
and fraud and lies,
in Silicon Valley, in the media business.
And to have a place that was willing
to just puncture all that
and could do it entertainingly
and truthfully and honestly,
it was incredibly refreshing.
Don't do it.
The kids are important to you.
That's what drives you, baby.
That's what l love. is the site
that exposed the mayor of Toronto
as a crack head
and was the first to raise questions
in this latest phase about Bill Cosby
and the accusations of sexual misconduct
and putting Quaaludes in women's drinks. is the site
that first raised questions
about Hillary Clinton's email server
when her email address
was revealed by the Guccifer hack.
I had put out the story
about Tom Cruise's role
as chief marketing officer,
pretty much, of the Church of Scientology.
We are the authorities
on getting people off drugs.
We are the authorities on the mind.
We are the authorities
on improving conditions.
So has
a long illustrious history
of putting out great stories
that weren't being written about.
And, I think, in a media ecosystem,
you need at least a few people
who are prepared to offend or insult.
What was at stake
was the future of the company,
of the entire project.
He and his attorneys had very successfully
dragged us down to Florida.
It should have been a federal case.
They tried it in federal court.
They tried a copyright claim
in Tampa in federal court.
And those both got bounced on a decision
from a U.S. District Court Judge
that said this was newsworthy.
It's protected by the First Amendment.
The reason to save Gawker
is not because Gawker was worth saving.
The reason to save it
is that we don't pick and choose
what sort of publications are permissible,
because once we do,
it empowers the government to limit speech
in a way that ought to be impermissible.
Even the most disagreeable speech
is, as a general matter at least,
fully protected by the First Amendment.
Judge Pamela Campbell.
Her claim to fame before this
was that she was the lawyer
for the parents of Terri Schiavo.
Her parents refused to let her
have her feeding tube removed,
and Campbell was their lawyer.
Jeb Bush appoints her to this position
as a judge in Pinellas County.
As jury selection begins,
Judge Pamela Campbell
makes these comments to the jury
about how she's unhappy with the state
of journalism and online journalism.
Do you guys have matches?
I really wish I had some.
The funny thing about this case...
Through the whole two years, I think,
since I found out it was going to trial,
it always felt off.
It always felt like
there was something else happening.
You're the editor in chief?
So we've moved
up through the decades.
At some point, did you learn
about a Hulk Hogan sex tape?
Or a tape purportedly involving
Mr. Hogan engaged in sex with a woman?
- Yes, I did.
- Okay.
I received
an e-mail from someone
who said that he had a client that was
interested in sending me a package.
He hinted at what it was,
but he couldn't say who his client was,
or how he had come into possession
of what was the Hulk Hogan sex tape.
And I said, "Sure. Send it over."
These are things
that happen kind of routinely.
And especially to me.
Who was it
that broke this story
about there possibly being
a Hulk Hogan sex tape out there?
-It was
A few places, like the Dirty,
publishes screenshots from the tape.
People are trying
to get their hands on it.
At that time in 2012,
celebrity sex tapes had gone
from the Pam Anderson, Tommy Lee
to the Kim Kardashian
to, you know, Dustin Diamond.
So it just seemed like
everyone was having one leaked.
This person wanted no money for this.
Just wanted me to watch it.
And I did.
Could you recognize
anyone that appeared in the video?
Yeah. I recognized Hulk Hogan.
And could you recognize anyone else?
There was a woman in the video as well,
which, according to other
previously reported news,
was rumored to be Heather Clem.
And then there was also a male voice
at the beginning of the recording,
which, according to other reports,
seemed to be Bubba The Love Sponge.
- Six times the fireworks...
- No fear, nothing to lose.
Six times the stupidity...
-Are you alright?
-I'm burning!
On the Bubba The Love Sponge Show.
Bubba The Love Sponge, who himself
is like a celebrity in his own right.
Pay some homage to the man.
Before all this, nationally,
I think he was best known
for the time where he claimed
to be slaughtering a hog on air to eat.
- Do you want to skin the hog?
- Yeah, we are good.
Yeah, we'll put it on the grill.
Once, he threatened
to burn the Quran on the air.
And the CIA, I believe, actually had
to reach out to him through Jill Kelley.
Jill Kelley had to reach out to Bubba
because apparently they had
credible information
that him burning the Quran on the air
would be a national security threat.
Bubba was married
to this woman, Heather Clem.
Their relationship was one where he would
watch her have sex with other men.
And one of those men
happened to be Hulk Hogan
who was his best friend,
best man at his wedding.
A.J. Daulerio basically gives it
to a video editor at Gawker and says,
"Cut this into, like, a 30-second,
a minute-long kind of highlight reel."
Then he does a post
about the Hulk Hogan sex tape.
When we published the Hogan story,
no one cared.
There was not...
We've published a lot of stories
that people are shocked and outraged,
and we feel that outrage,
we get a lot of anger
and hate and resentment back.
Some of it, justified.
Hogan did not have that dynamic at all.
-Morning, guys.
-How are you?
Our request of Gawker was quite simple:
Take it down; we walk away.
That was it. We didn't ask for anything.
We didn't demand anything,
save and except,
in the name of decency if nothing else,
they take it down and we walk away.
It was not a situation
that needed to be publicized
for the good of the American people
or for the world community.
Quite to the contrary.
It was salacious,
it was ugly and mean spirited.
I also sent a more personalized email
to Mr. Denton in particular,
because, again,
I didn't want him to regard my letter
to his corporate council
or his editorial staff
as a direct challenge.
"You want to fight? Let's go fight."
You know, "Meet me
at the bicycle rack at three o'clock."
It wasn't about that.
Do you remember
getting this cease and desist letter
from David Houston?
You didn't find it
persuasive enough
to compel you to pull this video off?
We passed it to legal, considered it
and, yes, I didn't find it persuasive.
It's funny, lurid.
It's kind of interesting
and newsworthy
in that he's this American icon,
an American hero,
a role model for kids.
Images from that sex tape
had actually already been published.
Hulk Hogan had talked about
the sex tape making the rounds
on TMZ.
In fact, even after
we did our story on Gawker,
he went on the Howard Stern Show
to joke about his performance.
Can we talk about this sex tape thing?
So let me understand
what's going on...
Hogan had actually been using
his own sex life as part of his image.
There is a Hulk Hogan sex tape
going around the Internet.
You know when you see
the words "Hulk Hogan Sex Tape",
you have that moment before you decide
whether or not to click it.
I feel like that's
about as close as you can get
to being able
to stare into your own soul.
I understand why a lot people
were not just upset,
but revolted at Gawker.
It was very rough,
it was often very mean.
They seemed to take great pleasure.
So it's really understandable
that people were angry at it.
There are a lot of people I know
who represent newspapers, the press bar,
who say, "Well, we wouldn't do that,"
which is of course true.
And of course that's fortunately
not the standard we use
in deciding what's legally protected
and what not.
What was needed here was an acceptance
that the First Amendment
has a role to play,
that even this sort of material
about that person,
who had said those things about himself
so publicly and repeatedly
has to be protected.
During the trial, Terry Bollea,
the real human being,
who is under all these layers
of this cartoon character
that we know of as Hulk Hogan,
said that he was hurt
by the posting of this video.
He said, "Listen, I may have boasted
about things in character as Hulk Hogan
on radio, in my public appearances.
But that's very different
from how Terry Bollea feels
when the doors are closed
and I'm having a private moment.
And this has been devastating to me."
I knew before I went to New York
that Gawker had put the tape up.
when TMZ called me...
they confirmed my worst fears
that the only one person I had left,
because my wife had taken off
with my kids at that time,
that the only person I had left was -
this camaraderie with - Bubba, my friend.
And as bad as everything was,
and as horrible as I felt about it,
and just everything
was going to hell in a handbag,
I still held out hope
because he was telling me
he did not do this to me.
And when Mike Walters said he saw it
and the executive producer saw it,
I remember being on the phone
with David Houston, and I started...
My arms had never done this before...
My hands started shaking violently
and I got off the phone,
and I didn't go into a spasm,
but it was one of those things
where I couldn't quit shaking.
And I finally answered the phone
after David called me several times,
and he talked me down,
because he was the only person
that I had in my life
that I believed loved me
and actually was my friend.
I was pretty robbed.
I felt... I felt numb.
He kind of comes up
with this new argument
that Gawker invaded
Terry Bollea's privacy,
whereas all of the bravado and bombast
on Howard Stern
or in his memoirs or his reality show,
all of that was a performance
that Hulk Hogan was giving,
not Terry Bollea.
And from there, it just gets
weirder and weirder and weirder.
Let me ask you this.
Just, let's see if we can simplify this.
Do you have any doubt
as you sit in that witness stand today
that you were discussing the length
of your penis on Bubba's radio program?
Any doubt?
Well, it's not mine
because mine isn't that size,
but we were discussing
the length of Hulk Hogan's.
Seriously? So... You--
No, seriously,
I do not have a 10-inch penis.
No, I do not, seriously.
Fair enough. So what
you're telling us is you were discussing--
Believe that. Seriously.
Excuse me?
You were discussing
Hulk Hogan's penis?
Yeah, because Terry Bollea's penis is not
10 inches like you're trying to say.
All right.
I go like this in the courtroom
because I was just...
I was just shocked.
I was like, "This is actually
being said in a courtroom right now.
This is Hulk Hogan,
who is suing me for $100 million,
saying all this bizarro shit."
You didn't think that that was
invasive of your privacy, right?
- My privacy as Terry Bollea?
- Or Hulk Hogan.
We've talked about Hulk Hogan
several times.
I need to get... make you understand this:
that Hulk Hogan gave up his privacy -
the moment he walked out his front door
and became a celebrity -
and his anonymity.
And so I don't like talking
about Hulk Hogan's penis,
but I've already tried to explain to you,
I gave up my right as Hulk Hogan
to have Hulk Hogan have any privacy.
I don't know how much clearer
I can make that to you.
I'll do whatever I can to help you.
But I don't know whatever else
to say to make you understand that.
Fair enough.
What a cartoony explosion of truth
about America is coming out here.
There is a bargain
that the press has made for a long time
that celebrities are allowed,
not to lie,
but to puff themselves up.
And in advertising law, by the way,
there is, "This cookie
is the best cookie in the world."
You know, "This car will attract dames."
And that is called puffery.
And it is legal,
which is what I think
Hulk Hogan was doing
with his penis size,
his sexual exploits, his prowess.
And what all the way up to Donald Trump
has been doing is puffery.
You know, he hopes
that the Russians will find Hillary's
33,000 emails and publish them.
I think you will probably be
rewarded mightily by our press.
He said he was being sarcastic.
Can you catch
the public persona out in a lie?
You're fired.
When Donald Trump was criticized
for his misogynist remarks,
one of the defenses
against that attack was that,
"Oh, well, he was just saying
these rude things about women.
That was his TV personality."
A lot of those statements are what
Mr. Trump made as a TV character,
so I don't think that
some of that is going to stick.
I don't know
where that leaves journalists.
I think, at the very least,
even if we're not going to actually
call them out in out-and-out lies,
although I don't see why not,
I don't see why a character
should be immune from that.
You good?
In the lead up to this case,
I talked to a number of people at Gawker,
as well as others
who were watching the conflict build.
And they clearly were wondering
how it was that Terry Bollea,
who's had some financial distress,
would be in a position
to pursue a suit like this.
One of the most intriguing things
during the lawsuit
was that a charge was dropped
by Terry Bollea at a key moment,
and people following the lawsuit are
saying, "Why the heck would they do that?
They're throwing everything at us.
Why on earth would they drop a charge?"
The charge here
was the infliction of emotional distress.
And that was one of several elements
of this lawsuit.
The infliction of emotional distress
fell within the parameters
of an insurance policy
about the infliction of bodily harm.
Once that charge was dropped
from the civil suit,
the insurance company walks away,
and that meant that Gawker,
that Nick Denton, that the former editor
were themselves very much
financially exposed
to the harm that could be caused
by this lawsuit.
It was like a missile about to go off.
So by reducing their claim,
Hulk Hogan doesn't
stand to win so much, ultimately,
but then we can't pay for the costs
through insurance.
- That's strange.
- Very strange.
You'd think someone
in Hulk Hogan's position
would go for
the biggest financial windfall.
There's no reason
that they would be doing that,
if the goal here was to maximize
Hulk Hogan's recovery of damages.
The only reason to do that
is to destroy the company.
We had a suspicion
that there was somebody.
This has cost $13 million
in legal fees for us so far.
It suggests that there's another agenda.
The lawyers occasionally
raised this possibility with me.
Nick refused to believe it,
because he didn't want to get wrapped up
in any kind of conspiracy theories.
From my perspective,
it was a sense of creeping dread.
The way they litigated it, the way
they litigated this into the ground -
every question that could be briefed
was briefed.
It was very clear
that they were basically trying
to rack up billable hours on our side.
They would come down to hearings in Tampa,
and stay at really nice hotels.
Who's paying for this stuff, right?
Is this a contingency case?
Bollea's motivations
aren't entirely clear,
because there was an additional tape
on which he was having sex
on which he was reported
to have used racial epithets
against African Americans
of the most hideous kind.
Gawker will argue that Hogan
was aware that on one of the sex tapes,
he was using racist
and homophobic language
and that is the real reason
that he sued Gawker,
and if they published that
it would definitely be newsworthy
and it would destroy his career.
When we first got word
as to Gawker and what Gawker had done,
you know, one might consider that
a bad day.
It was going to get worse.
We actually, meaning me...
I was contacted by an individual
who described himself as a lawyer,
who represented certain individuals
that had the entire sex tape.
And really this little bit
that was given to Gawker
was to constitute a shot across our bow
to let us know they were serious
about selling this tape to the media
or publicizing it,
and if we wanted to,
we could engage in meaningful negotiations
to purchase that particular sex tape.
And my first thought,
and I expressed it verbally,
was "This is the same thing as extortion."
And I was reminded by my counterpart
that they didn't consider it such.
They consider it a business deal.
Thanks for coming back,
along with your attorney Keith Davidson.
Keith Davidson is an arguably
disgraced lawyer from Los Angeles
whose living, in some form,
is based on being a sex tape broker.
He made a name for himself doing that.
He got involved in the whole dust-up
over the Verne Troyer sex tape.
Yes, there's a sex tape of Mini Me.
This individual actually
apparently made a living
brokering sex tapes,
and I just couldn't believe
that somebody openly did that.
I met with the FBI
on a number of occasions.
A sting operation was actually set up
where we were all to gather and meet
in a hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida,
at which point in time,
this individual would receive from us
a rather substantial check,
and in turn, he would turn over to us
what he claimed to be
the only and the original
of this sex tape.
The FBI on the appointed day
was also present
and operating out of this hotel,
had rented the room directly next door,
had wired up the room
we were in with audio.
Am I correct to assume
that the person we're going to see today
is not the person
who actually got the tapes,
but rather somebody
acting on their behalf?
Okay. So they're kind of working together?
They don't want to reveal themselves?
So they don't want their identity known?
And they watch
various parts of the video.
What they haven't seen or heard yet
is that on one of the other two videos,
he uses the N-word.
A lot.
And he makes various homophobic comments.
That's bad.
It's harder for me to watch,
thinking that
that guy was my friend all those years.
Yeah, it's one thing
to hear about it, and it's one thing--
It's just like...
I mean, he was there
when my father passed away,
leaning over the bed with me.
I mean, it just...
just totally blows my mind to see that.
That's just the absolute, man.
When the deal, if you can call it that,
was concluded,
they of course came in
through all doors possible,
down on the ground, et cetera, et cetera,
got Bollea and I
out of the room very quickly,
which resulted in the immediate detention
of the attorney from Los Angeles
and his cohort.
Hulk Hogan's $100 million lawsuit
over a tape that was posted online
by the website Gawker.
Hogan claims it's an invasion of privacy.
Gawker argues
he is fair game and it's news.
Do you mind getting a little further back?
During the Hogan/Gawker lawsuit,
during the discovery process,
Gawker finds out about
this whole FBI investigation and sting.
It was disclosed that Mr. Bollea engaged
in horribly racist rants on this tape.
But Judge Campbell had ruled,
at the time,
that this stuff was attorneys' eyes only.
During the course of
the Gawker investigation,
there was also a leak of a transcript,
and that leaked transcript
found its way to the National Enquirer
and Radar Online.
The Enquirer tips off WWE,
where Hogan was working at the time
as kind of a goodwill ambassador
and appearing on TV occasionally.
They immediately cut ties with him,
delete every mention of him
from their website,
and he's gone.
Today, World Wrestling Entertainment
terminated the contract
of one of its biggest stars, Hulk Hogan.
Hogan's reputation is in tatters.
The most famous
professional wrestler of all time
is no longer a WWE Hall of Famer.
What was in that leaked transcript
was the racial epithets that Mr. Bollea
said and admitted he had uttered
and admitted it was stupid,
it wasn't meant
the way it was being taken.
But once that happens
and people run with it,
they try to tag you with a racist tag
despite the fact that numbers of people
came out and supported Mr. Bollea
and said nothing could be
further from the truth.
The question became who leaked that
information to the National Enquirer.
It was Denton's hope
that the media would think,
"Oh, Terry Bollea didn't file this lawsuit
because he was hurt
by what Gawker had done.
He filed it simply to avoid the release
of these, quote, 'racial epithets'
that were contained within the transcript
the FBI had done of the tape."
Nothing could have been
further from the truth.
The evidence suggests
that's what he was concerned about.
He sends a text message
to Bubba The Love Sponge, the best friend,
former best friend,
who made the recording.
He sends a text message
and clearly indicates that he's worried
more about this other recording
and the racist language.
The irony is that...
that probably wouldn't have come out.
Would it have come out?
I don't know.
I don't think it would have come out.
The defendants list was a lot
longer before it just got down to me.
And I couldn't figure out, the whole time,
like, why am I still on this list?
I'm the guy that wrote the post.
I had some editorial power,
but, at the same time, the decision
to keep up the portion of the sex tape
that was probably the thing
that was causing all these problems,
that goes above my head.
Do you remember a portion
of your deposition that was played,
where you talked about what kinds
of hypothetical celebrity sex tapes
would not be newsworthy?
Yeah, I do.
The moment where it really starts
to seem like Hogan is winning the trial
is when they play back
part of A.J. Daulerio's deposition.
Can you imagine a situation
where a celebrity sex tape
would not be newsworthy?
If they were a child.
Under what age?
You were joking?
Is what you just said?
I did say that.
Do you think that's a funny topic
to joke about, child pornography?
No, not at all.
Clearly, I'm kidding.
Who would actually think that?
And I was just reacting to a person
that was sitting across from me
who was doing everything possible
to take away something that I loved.
Which was Gawker.
And harm them.
you know, I reacted.
These are the people who write
and distribute these stories.
This is the guy who wrote the story.
His name is A.J. Daulerio.
He shocked the jury when he testified
that the only sex tape
he would not publish
was one involving a child
under the age of four.
They were the worst days of my life.
I felt so horrible for how Gawker
was being portrayed over all this.
After Hogan initially files the suit
against Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem
and Heather Clem,
saying that they secretly recorded him,
Bubba goes on his radio show
and says, actually,
Hogan knew he was being taped.
This was an act that all parties
knew about everything.
Did everyone know about the tape?
- Everybody knew about everything.
- Okay.
Later, Hogan and Bubba
settle for, I think, $5,000
and an agreement
to help Hogan go after Gawker.
We weren't allowed
to put Bubba on the stand.
He pleaded the fifth.
And we weren't even allowed to put him
on the stand to plead the fifth.
The judge said, "Let's not bother him."
The irony here is the spirit of Gawker
is what the story behind the story is,
what's really happening.
And we were stuck in this situation where
we had this very sort of filmic story
about Hogan's effort
to prevent the release of this other tape
that was damaging.
And we couldn't say any of it to the jury.
It was a sham trial.
The jury knows nothing about this.
They weren't able
to impeach Heather's testimony.
Whatever you think about what Gawker did,
they didn't really get a fair shake here.
How did it go today, Hulk?
Today was another good day.
Every day is a good day.
David, how did it go today?
It went very well.
Better than we could have
ever hoped for.
Every day just seems
to get better and better.
This case became more of a juggernaut.
It built up steam
and it started to become stronger
and stronger and faster and faster.
Literally, all that I could do
is look back behind Gawker
and see nothing but the debris of defeat.
It was everywhere.
There was this
relentless march forward -
we couldn't stop what was coming at us,
and there wasn't a lot we could do.
We the jury
return the following verdict.
Did plaintiff prove that
by posting the video,
defendants publicly disclosed
private facts about the plaintiff
in a manner that a reasonable person
would find highly offensive?
Did plaintiff prove that the video
was not a matter of public concern?
Did Nick Denton participate
in posting that video on
Hogan breaks down crying at the verdict.
I mean, whatever you think
this means to him,
whatever that actually is,
it clearly meant something.
And he's crying.
And they award him $115 million
in compensatory damages.
And they go back
and they come out and they say,
"We find punitive damages
of $15 million against Gawker,
$10 million against Nick,
and $100,000 against Daulerio."
Florida jury speaking out
after awarding Hulk Hogan
$140 million in damages.
Gawker will have to pay up
for the online publication of a sex tape.
The jurors say
they would have awarded Hogan even more,
but the judge warned them not to bankrupt
Gawker and its founder Nick Denton.
State courts
have a history of offering
really, shall we say, inflated judgments.
This was one on steroids.
It's insane. I mean, if you
talk to any legal experts, it's insane.
It's a multiple of, like,
the highest normal award
for a wrongful death lawsuit.
One of the jury members
said later that I showed no remorse.
My face was blank.
I was conscious of the fact
that there were cameras on me.
And I believed that we were in the right.
I am confident that
we would have prevailed at trial
if we had been allowed to present
the full case to the jury.
That is why we feel very positive about
the appeal we have already been preparing.
And we expect to win this case ultimately.
Thank you very much.
The size of the award and
the demand to start putting up the money
are what the lawyers call
an enterprise-threatening event.
That's what makes it so dramatic
and so disturbing.
That the size of the award was essentially
a death sentence for this newsroom.
The notion that
the publication will cease to exist
is something itself extraordinary
and very dangerous.
Even if you conclude
the worst about Gawker,
the idea, first,
that they should have lost this case
and, second, the idea
that they should be gone,
the whole situation about this case
is extremely problematic.
Nick Denton becomes convinced
that there is somebody
financing this lawsuit,
somebody who's got no other
real connection to Terry Bollea.
Not one of his friends. Not his family.
Somebody else with a different agenda.
The New York Times publishes
what's essentially a speculative piece
pointing a finger
at a Silicon Valley billionaire.
It comes out that there's some
secret funder doing this, behind this.
And I thought, "What, what?"
Forbes reports
that it's Peter Thiel.
The day after that,
Peter Thiel admits it
to the New York Times on the record.
It's like, "Wow."
It's amazing to think about what we've
learned in the past few hours about this.
CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin confirming
that billionaire Peter Thiel,
a co-founder of PayPal,
early Facebook investor,
with a net worth estimated
at $2.7 billion,
is secretly paying the expenses
of Hulk Hogan's legal fight.
A remarkable story
and a remarkable revelation,
the country gripped
by this Hulk Hogan story
for many, many months this past year.
You're talking about
someone who is so rich
going after
an independent publisher, right.
So those are the key factors here.
That is sort of unprecedented.
Media critics who have similar views,
that this is a new threat
to democracy and to free speech
if billionaires or multimillionaires
can be behind the scenes
secretly financing lawsuits
against news organizations.
This is personal.
He's doing this
because he wants to bring Gawker down.
It was scarcely believable,
that something so cinematically vindictive
and conspiratorial and underhanded
could actually happen.
I didn't think
it was going to be apocalyptic,
but it just happened that way.
And the weird part about today
is just, like, now I know what a colossal
waste of time that whole trial was.
That was not even the goal.
This has nothing to do with me,
this has nothing to do with Hulk Hogan.
Hulk Hogan's a pawn, and right now,
I'm just a patsy in this whole ordeal.
Everyone involved in Gawker's side
knows that we're
just completely outgunned here.
Peter Thiel is considered one
of the smartest people in Silicon Valley.
He became famous in the late
'90s and early 2000s with PayPal.
He was the CEO at one point.
He was a co-founder.
He was also very famous for being
a very early investor in Facebook.
He runs a venture-capital fund.
In the past, he's run a hedge fund.
So he's kind of an investor,
slash entrepreneur,
slash philosopher-king type
who gives public talks and wrote a book.
There are businesses that are competitive
and there are those that are monopolies.
And there is shockingly little
that is in between.
And this dichotomy
is not understood very well
because people
are constantly lying
about the nature
of the businesses they are in.
In the show Silicon Valley,
there is a character based on Peter Thiel.
The cicadas of Myanmar
emerge every 13 years,
while the Brazilian cicadas
emerge every 17.
He's got a lot of money
and a lot of influence,
and if he wants it,
a pretty big megaphone in Silicon Valley.
And he also has a history.
He has a history with Gawker itself
because Valleywag
went after his sexual orientation.
Owen Thomas,
at this time, in charge of Valleywag,
writes an article titled
"Peter Thiel is Totally Gay, People."
The title seems like
it's taking cheap shots.
It's not,
it's actually a very nuanced article
about whether or not Silicon Valley's
actually that open-minded.
A story that he very much sought
to prevent from being posted
and in fact essentially
threatened Gawker from doing
about eight or nine years
before this lawsuit.
Peter Thiel vowed vengeance
and in a state courtroom in Florida,
a continent away,
Peter Thiel was determined to get it.
The common perception
among straight people
is that one's personal life
is a personal prerogative,
except that pretty much every single
married, straight executive with kids
will talk about their wife and kids
and will be asked about them.
That's seen as being biographical detail.
I'm a gay guy,
and to my mind, it is simply insulting
for different standards
to be applied to gay people
than are applied to straight people.
I don't see any reason why we should
treat it as being something shameful,
to be kept secret.
So I'll push back
very, very strongly against that.
I think it's good for society
that it's clear now
that there are gay people everywhere.
It's not just fashion designers
and celebrity hairdressers,
but you have a gay CEO of the most
valuable company in the world, Apple.
You have the most prominent venture
capitalist in Silicon Valley who is gay.
He thought that Gawker was uniquely evil.
He described Valleywag
as being like a terrorist organization.
Peter Thiel did not
give Terry Bollea a case.
He did not give him facts.
He certainly didn't give the jury
the things they considered.
Peter Thiel presented an opportunity.
Do you have a comment about
the recent story from a few hours ago...
with Mr. Thiel, co-founder...
No clue.
No clue what they're talking about.
-You have no idea about that?
-No idea.
Most of us found out
when Mr. Thiel made himself known.
It was never a situation where anybody
that was involved on this trial team
had any knowledge of any ability
of Mr. Thiel to fund, or for how long.
Mr. Thiel wanted to come forward and help,
but wanted to remain anonymous.
That's fine.
The end result is,
if we can garner the additional help,
we certainly would take that opportunity.
He told the New York Times
that funding lawsuits to destroy Gawker
was the greatest philanthropic thing
he's ever done.
Welcome to the National Press Club
to talk of his political choices
and motivations, Mr. Peter Thiel.
Are you engaged in any other lawsuits
against news organizations?
Not right... I've been involved
in the Gawker case, nothing else.
And, you know,
part of my thought was, again,
they were a singularly...
sociopathic bully.
It was...
My view is that other journalists,
other media organizations,
were not remotely in the same ballpark.
It's no answer for Mr. Thiel
to say, "I won't do this again."
He may not do this again.
What he's done
is to open a door for other people.
What he's done is to legitimize the notion
that somebody not involved in a case
can, for the purpose
of destruction of a publication,
fund a litigation which may,
and in this case has,
had the effect of destroying it.
I understand why Mr. Thiel
is personally outraged at Gawker.
And I'm perfectly willing to accept
that he's outraged at what it did
in the Hulk Hogan case,
as well as his own situation.
That doesn't change anything.
What he's done is to sort of
move the pieces on a chessboard
in a way that no one's ever done before.
What he's done is to potentially imperil
entities who upset large, rich,
powerful people and institutions.
And it's not limited to individuals.
This can be corporations.
He claims
that he really likes reporters,
and he's given a million dollars
to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
I've spoken to
the Committee to Protect Journalists.
They say they appreciate it,
but they don't appreciate abusing the
justice system to go after journalists.
I don't think
that the supposed outing story
was the reason why he embarked on this.
We wrote tons of stories
about his feud with Mike Moritz
of Sequoia Capital.
We reported on his friends.
We reported on Sean Parker's wedding,
in which he took over
a protected swath of the Redwoods
to turn it into some scene
from Game of Thrones or The Hobbit
and had everyone dress up in
Merlin the Magician outfits,
for his wedding,
and then ended up
having to pay an enormous fine
for the damage that he did ecologically
to this protected area.
The stuff that I think
he's actually really worked up about
was the Clarium reporting.
You know, he ran
a hedge fund called Clarium.
It lost 90% of its value
over the life of the fund.
That is, even by generous standards,
a really abysmal performance.
Silicon Valley has become
a monster of authority and of power
in our lives,
and remains largely invisible.
The Silicon Valley billionaires
funded by these monopolies
now have vastly more power
than a fragmented media industry
that has lost its most reliable
source of revenue, classified ads,
has lost that, actually, to the Internet.
We covered Silicon Valley critically.
And yes, we were bad for the Valley.
Like, yeah.
And the reason we were bad is because we
were telling the truth about the Valley.
Peter Thiel does have
eccentric beliefs about a number of things
He has this program
called the Thiel Fellowship.
And he gives about 20 kids a year
to drop out of school
and pursue an entrepreneurial idea.
The idea behind it is that the U.S.
needs to do something
to get its innovation engine
started again.
Peter Thiel's a big proponent
of seasteading,
which he's described
as sort of living on an island,
free of government interference.
He created an organization
called the Seasteading Institute.
The whole idea
is to create a society offshore,
outside the reach of laws.
This kind of Ayn Rand-ian
libertarian fantasy.
There is so much
insane bureaucracy and policies
and things that have been built up
over decades and decades
of worse and worse mis-government,
that if you could find a place
to do things anew,
we all think you could do it
so much better.
He has other maybe
even more eccentric beliefs,
especially around trying to extend life,
like supporting research on whether
getting infusions of young people's blood
helps extend your life.
Peter Thiel had spent something
like $10,000 to fund James O'Keefe,
the guy who was behind the ACORN videos,
and some other recent advocacy videos.
He seems to have
kind of very eccentric views
which tend to be critical of democracy
and tend to be in favor
of kind of a strong man
who can lead humanity to greatness.
He co-wrote
a book about diversity.
Just kind of inflammatory,
provocative stuff.
The reason we have
racial tensions in our society,
the reason we have
other kinds of tensions,
is not because there's a problem
with racism and other forms of oppression
but because people
are looking for these things too much.
If you are dealing with
a multicultural educator
who is looking for racism everywhere
and who's finding racism everywhere,
then I think one of the things
you might do
is you might stay clear of that person.
He did write about
how extending suffrage to women
is a notoriously tough idea
for libertarians.
He thinks that democracy is outmoded
and inappropriate,
particularly since women
got the right to vote.
One of the companies
that he's deeply involved in, Palantir,
I mean, their whole modus operandi is
that they gather information on people.
Palantir is a company
that analyzes data.
The name "Palantir" comes from
The Lord of the Rings.
It is kind of like a crystal ball.
If you are looking into
one of these seeing stones,
you can see what's happening
where the other ones are.
They initially received
an investment from In-Q-Tel,
which is the CIA's venture capital arm.
So they are very closely tied
to the national security state.
Around this time,
there also started being more and more,
not the frivolous, but less than credible
lawsuits against Gawker.
And most of them had Hogan's head
litigator, Charles Harder, at the helm.
Charles Harder was a name
not well-known
outside of Southern California
before all this happened.
He's an entertainment lawyer,
a vigorous representative
of figures in Hollywood.
In this case, he emerged
as somebody willing to play
incredibly hardball legal tactics
against media outlets.
The game he has played legally has
taken aback a lot of the First Amendment
and a lot of the media company lawyers
I've talked to.
Because they just didn't expect
the war to be waged so intensely.
Charles Harder was also representing
Melania Trump.
Charles Harder
is an upstanding American citizen,
about whom I have...
about whom I have bad thoughts,
but I am not permitted to express them.
And I regret those bad thoughts.
He is suing me, but he's threatened
to sue me personally, for defamation,
for comments that I made to
Forbes Magazine, in which I suggested...
I can't say what I suggested,
because then he'll have another
opportunity to attempt to sue me.
Peter Thiel
is by no means the first billionaire,
the first powerful figure to decide
that he wants to influence or pressure
the press and how it operates.
You can think of media barons themselves,
the Hearsts of the world,
the Chandler family out in Los Angeles,
the Sulzberger family in New York City,
and all of them have had
an interest in how the media operates
and through that, at times,
how the political system works.
And you've seen that with Jeff Bezos,
in sort of a new generation
of digital billionaires.
He decided that he wanted
to be involved, by all accounts,
as a pretty remarkable, if conventional,
steward of the Washington Post.
Peter Thiel's decision to get involved
was of a different order.
What he did
in financing the suits against Gawker
was a kind of adversarial
stance and attack
that was sheathed from public view.
Three, two, one...
For folks who are fans
of fearless and scrappy press,
there were storm clouds brewing
at this point.
Sit down. You weren't called.
On the national scale
you're going to have, essentially,
a cyclone hit the national press
from a figure seemingly beyond reproach,
beyond shame, and beyond accountability.
Not only is Peter Thiel waging
his covert campaign against Gawker,
but out in the desert, out in Las Vegas,
another figure
was quietly behind the scenes,
taking steps to take over
the largest and most important
news organization in his home state.
And he was doing it in a way
that would take everyone
including, and perhaps especially,
his own journalists
utterly by surprise.
The Las Vegas
Review-Journal kind of saw itself
as the newspaper of record for Nevada.
It wanted to cover
all of the key industries,
cover the municipalities,
cover all the important stories,
and cover them
in a deep and meaningful manner.
It's Nevada's largest media outlet,
especially if you look at
political and gaming areas.
December 10th,
Jason Taylor, the publisher,
is holding what is a routine, monthly
meeting that he does for all staff.
It's a combination rah-rah session,
update on how things are going,
introducing new employees.
They give us snacks.
A lot of people like to go to them
because, you know, they give us snacks.
And it's relatively painless.
This one's different, though.
I'm walking with a couple of staffers to
the other building for the rah-rah session
when Mike Hengel yells at me
from back behind.
So I stop to go see what he wanted.
I said, "Make sure we have
a reporter at this meeting.
And make sure
we get a photographer there."
I looked at him and said,
"They've sold the paper, haven't they?"
And I said, "Yep."
Effective today,
Gatehouse Media and New Media,
our parent company,
have sold the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
And the room just...
I mean, just the air was sucked out of it.
It was never a plan. Okay?
But the opportunity for the shareholders
of Gatehouse was too great to pass it up.
Mr. Davis then introduces
this man I don't recognize.
He does not look
the part of a newspaper executive.
I'll put it that way.
He looks like somebody
who perhaps gained a little weight
since he bought
the suit that he's wearing.
I don't think his shirt was tucked in.
He looked very uncomfortable.
He proceeded to introduce himself
as Michael Schroeder, who was the manager,
a title that doesn't really exist
in the newspaper business,
but the manager of News + Media LLC,
a holding company that's been formed
to buy the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Brian, can I see that paper for a sec?
He looks like Peter Griffin
from Family Guy.
He was quite the slob.
He had his shirt hanging out.
He had his pants unbuttoned.
He was heavy breathing.
If you had called
Central Casting in Hollywood
and said, "Send us an obvious front man,"
they would send you him.
It was so clear, just looking at the guy,
that he was not the power.
None of these things
made any sense whatsoever.
I raised my hand and I said,
"Who are the investors?
And what are their expectations?"
And Michael Schroeder said words
that will always be remembered
and probably chiseled onto his tombstone.
We really don't think...
They want you to focus on your job.
Is this a joke?
You may as well have gone down to the zoo
and thrown a bunch of red bloody meat
into the lion's cage.
"Don't worry about who they are.
Just do your jobs."
Like, what is our job? That's it.
The entire audience just melted down.
A lot of people were upset.
Some probably impolite words
were said loudly.
How can you do your job?
How can you know
what lines you're crossing ethically,
whose interests you're serving
We were going to try
to find out who it was.
There was just a sense
of a mission and pride
that we have to be
the ones that report this.
There were several reporters
banging away on this idea, who are they?
And we asked, "Who are they?"
And Jason said,
"It's a group of investors."
"How many are there?"
He said, "About ten."
"Do you know who they are?"
"Well, I've seen a list,
but I can't tell you who they are."
I believe people flat out asked him,
"Is the Adelson family involved?"
And I believe he said, "No."
Sheldon Adelson.
He is, you know, one of the most
successful businessmen in the country.
You know, he runs some of the largest
casino operations in Las Vegas,
which is the hub of gaming in the country,
in the world.
Sheldon Adelson
is an American success story.
He starts in a suburb of Boston
as a poor boy.
Clearly, as you listen to him
tell the story over the years,
here's a guy with a chip on his shoulder.
He comes to Las Vegas
with the COMDEX convention.
Which was, back in the early '80s,
it was one of the first
big computer trade shows ever.
He and some partners
bought the Las Vegas Sands,
a legendary casino in Las Vegas.
The Sands was imploded.
It's a local spectator sport.
We implode things.
And The Venetian was built in its place,
a class-A great hotel.
Sheldon Adelson was already an extremely
successful businessman by anybody's count,
but when he went to Macao
and he opened his casino there,
he really set the gaming industry
on its head.
But then, of course,
Macao is historically very controversial.
It's been a smuggler's paradise.
There's Triad activity there,
there's all kinds of skullduggery
that's taken place in Macao, historically.
But when they decided
to allow licensees in, in this new era,
Adelson wound up with one.
And he made it work.
He immediately rocketed up the charts
in terms of personal wealth.
Sheldon has found that
the more money he makes,
the more he is loved
by the Republican establishment.
He's become downright charming
to all these candidates for President.
He has a checkbook
that essentially won't quit
and so whoever gains his favor
is bound to benefit from that politically.
So the Adelson primary
has become part of the media commentary.
You know, who's going to come
and kiss the ring this week?
And it has made Las Vegas
a kind of political center.
Sheldon had a history
of asking about buying the paper.
He had the deep pockets,
and he had the local connection.
He was an obvious suspect,
and we asked about him several times
and were always put off.
"No," you know, "he's not on the list."
We knew in our gut
that it was him.
We just sat down
and started going through avenues
of "How can we figure this out?"
Let's try to hit the Delaware
incorporation documents harder.
You know, who do we know?
Who are we embedded with
that we can talk to
who are sources in that industry?
Basically, it was just really good,
traditional reporting work
that we started to do,
trying to mine data,
trying to mine online sources,
and hitting up real-life human sources
that we had cultivated
over years of reporting.
We had a lot of good reporters
on the staff.
And the ones who were
involved in reporting the story
were among the best we had.
Howard's sources were...
You know, he's been doing it
for 15, 20 years - gaming reporter.
He's one of the best in the country.
Jennifer is an outstanding reporter
and a really good writer.
I probably would have had to have shot
them to keep them from getting involved.
They were not going to let the bone go.
As much as journalism
is a calling for a lot of us,
it's a job, right?
And, I know for me, personally,
I could have lost that job.
And I would have been
able to replace the job.
I would have been able
to somehow find other income.
What I couldn't have fixed
would have been the moral stain
of looking away in that moment.
We didn't want to just speculate:
we wanted to say.
So, Howard, who has deep sources
in the gaming community,
was leaning on those sources quite a bit.
Every day we had
this steady drumbeat going,
you know, trying to shake
these people loose.
On Wednesday morning,
Howard comes into the office,
and he's got his computer bag
slung over his shoulder.
And he throws it down on his desk,
and he's kind of breathless.
And he says... he says something like,
"We got it. It was the son-in-law.
It's the son-in-law."
Howard puts the story together.
As a courtesy, naturally, I moved it
along to the publisher and said,
"We have a finished story.
We're ready to run this.
As soon as we get the green light
from you, we're ready to go."
2:00 p.m. turned into 4:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. turns into 5:00 p.m.
5:00 p.m. turns into 6:00 p.m.
And I still don't have
any approval on this.
Finally, at about 7:00 p.m. that evening,
still... nothing.
I've seen this
in newsrooms before,
but usually when there's, like,
a big disaster.
Everybody came in and everybody stayed,
even if they didn't have anything to do.
They just wanted to be part of it.
For us, the whole issue
was preserving and protecting
whatever credibility
we were going to have left.
I knew it was a...
probably a career-ending decision.
I was standing right there when I did it.
I mean, I had my computer out.
I was going back and forth
with the newsroom.
You know, it was 7:00 p.m.
And I'm just waiting for something,
either a yes, a no, a maybe.
And it never came.
So I just said, "Okay, we need
to go with this and let the chips fall."
He said, well, I can't say what he said.
It started with an "F."
And ended with the word "it."
It was scary.
You know, it was scary,
but it's what you have to do.
It really is.
I mean, some stories are worth
losing your job over.
The webviews went like this.
That night, after, actually, several days
of denying that they had bought the paper,
the Adelson family issued a statement.
And it was added to the paper.
John L. Smith, the star columnist of
the paper for years and years and years,
had butted heads with Sheldon Adelson
on more than one occasion.
The story of John Smith
in Las Vegas
is one of the most rending,
compelling, stories you'll ever hear
about what it means to be a journalist.
My book came out in 2005.
Sharks in the Desert
was a compilation of chapters
on historical figures and hotels
and a few issues in the arc of development
of the casino industry
from its early days,
pretty rough and tumble days,
to the corporate era.
There are a couple chapters
that mention Sheldon.
The book is not about him.
He's just included
as one of the characters,
as I believe any book on Las Vegas would
have to include him as a major character.
He wrote some passages
that Adelson took great exception to.
And Adelson sued him
and his publisher for libel.
I first learned about the litigation
while I was in the hospital,
at Children's Hospital Los Angeles
with my daughter...
literally in a life and death situation.
A major medical crisis with my daughter
who had a brain tumor.
I took the cell phone
and was told that someone was asking
for $15 million in damage
over a line in a book.
It was pretty staggering.
And it was hard to fathom that the book
had generated a lawsuit, first of all.
But, secondly, it was, you know,
it was a little overwhelming.
That's for sure.
Amelia was a seemingly healthy child
who developed headaches and nausea.
And in an emergency MRI there was
a brain tumor that was discovered.
We had emergency surgery,
she had full brain radiation
and chemotherapy.
Adelson had an intermediary,
a rabbi, call Smith and say, "Look,
I will put a six-figure sum
in a bank account for you
that your bosses never need to know about,
that will cover
your daughter's medical bills in full,
as long as you acknowledge in court
that you libeled me."
All I have to do is sign a document that
says I intended to defame Sheldon Adelson.
Which of course, A, I didn't.
B, I didn't intend to do that.
And if I had signed a document like that,
it would have been an invitation to,
you know, change careers.
It crushed my family.
It crushed, you know, my spirit.
Bullies, from the schoolyard
to Washington, D.C.,
they always act the same.
They bloody the nose of the kid
who can get his nose bloodied.
They never pick on anyone their own size.
I'd rather be known as a guy
who went up in weight class.
I fought the larger target.
We wound up getting a deposition
of Adelson for a number of hours.
We also gained access to
his Gaming Control Board background file,
something that's almost never been done
in the history of Nevada.
It was after that file
was read by the Judge
that their side decided
to dismiss this case with prejudice.
From that standpoint,
you know, you declare victory.
Even when
he was at such a point of crisis,
John Smith said, "This is who I am.
This is who I have to be.
And this is the only way
I can be proud of myself."
I've never seen a clearer case.
I mean, you don't always recognize heroism
when it happens.
But my God, what a moment.
It's well worn. This is not her today.
There's a tremendous burden
that my daughter carries.
She's got that spirit.
She inspires me every day.
And the community was beautiful.
Las Vegas has this reputation
of being this, you know, really cold
and hustle-oriented and all of that,
and there's a lot of truth there.
But when Amelia got sick,
the whole community just stepped up.
People were so nice, and they started
giving to children's charity.
The press in the real West isn't supposed
to be muzzled or corporately controlled,
it's supposed to be free-spirited
and independent,
and capable of raising hell
in high places.
A free and independent press
isn't a guarantee,
it's a goal.
Here's to pursuing that goal
like a sinking star, on a new moon night,
in Nevada... favorite place in the world.
Upon the appointment of the new publisher,
I was immediately ordered
not to write about Sheldon anymore.
Could not mention his name in my column.
Could not mention
the family's business in my column.
I think I realized that
the purchase of the newspaper
wasn't designed for my comfort.
We'll put it that way.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal,
Nevada's largest newspaper,
lost another standard bearer this week.
John L. Smith, who resigned
after citing difficulties with management,
spent nearly three decades
enlightening, emboldening,
and entertaining
the Las Vegas community.
Okay, this is the press plate
from the December 17th issue
in which we broke the story
of who the ownership involved.
It was by James DeHaven,
Howard, Jennifer Robison.
I went in front of the newsroom
and told them that I was stepping down.
Of course they wanted to know
whether it was, you know,
my decision or whether it was forced.
And my response was that, you know,
I thought it was just a difficult
relationship between them and me.
You go out covering a great story,
and that's lucky,
that I had the chance to do that.
I mean, you've been
in this business for a long time.
39 and a half years.
I had a hard time holding it together.
It was very difficult.
I cried a lot.
I cried... I mean, I cried a lot.
I cried when I thought
I was going to be fired.
And then I cried when it was obvious
that I was going to need to leave.
It was very difficult.
What the purchase of
the Las Vegas Review-Journal did
was take off the boards
between 20 and 100 people
who might reveal something that...
Sheldon Adelson doesn't like.
Many of the people in this picture
included the team that did the reporting
on the sale of the "R-J."
Starting from left, Eric Hartley: gone,
me: gone,
Howard Stutz: gone,
Jennifer Robison: gone,
Jim Wright: gone,
James DeHaven: gone,
Bethany Barnes, who was not involved
in the reporting, but she left, too,
Colton: still there.
I'm on the verge
of personal bankruptcy,
and the company had
to file for bankruptcy last month
in order to protect it from creditors.
My first priority
is to get the Gawker brands,
Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku, Jalopnik,
Life Hacker, Gizmodo,
and the 200-plus people
that work supporting those properties,
getting those people to a safe place
under new ownership
to a place where Peter Thiel
can't come after them.
If he was here - he's not - but if he
just walked out as a surprise guest,
what would you say to him?
I'd say,
"You've bankrupted the company,
you've bankrupted me, personally.
Why are you still going
after Sam Biddle, a journalist,
John Cook, our executive editor?
Why are you targeting
individual journalists
because you're upset with the coverage?"
Good evening. I am Peter Thiel.
I build companies and I support
people who are building new things,
from social networks to rocket ships.
I am not a politician,
but neither is Donald Trump.
He is a builder,
and it's time to re-build America.
Donald Trump,
who is being supported by Peter Thiel,
says that he wants
to open up the libel laws.
He wants to make it
easier to sue newspapers.
USA Today did a really
important piece about the 3,500 lawsuits
that Donald Trump has been involved with
in one way or another.
I think the media is among the most
dishonest groups of people I've ever met.
They're terrible.
Donald Trump, Peter Thiel,
and other billionaires
have been trying to undercut the press,
undercut the First Amendment,
undercut freedom of speech.
I think the common thread
among the Peter Thiel story,
the Adelson story,
and the Trump story
is billionaires who are proclaiming,
"We are not vulnerable to truth.
We are invulnerable to the facts,
and it simply doesn't matter what you say,
what the press does.
We are more powerful than the truth."
The Fox News decision desk
has called Pennsylvania for Donald Trump.
This means that Donald Trump
will be the 45th
president of the United States.
CNN can report that Hillary Clinton
has called Donald Trump
to concede the race.
Donald Trump presents a really
trying situation for American citizens.
Trump has done a number of things
that should give us
a great deal of cause for concern.
Among them are his lack of transparency,
his inaccessibility,
his extremely harsh criticism
and even abuse of journalists.
-You're raising money for veterans--
-I've seen you on TV. You're a beauty.
Immigrants, on the whole, create--
-Come on, try getting it out.
-I'll get it out.
I don't know if you'll put this on TV,
but you don't know what you're saying.
He's really been vociferous
in his criticism of the press.
Is this what it's going to be like
covering you if you're president?
Yeah, it is.
With this kind of confrontation
in the press room?
Yeah, it is going to be like this, David.
In general, he's called
the media and reporters scum.
He has said over and over and over again
that they're dishonest,
that they're corrupt.
They don't want to give it straight,
because the press are liars.
They're terrible people.
These are the most dishonest human beings
right back there.
He's urged his followers
at rallies to turn to the press pen
and shout things out that were abusive.
He's actually put people in danger.
She's back there, Little Katy.
She's back there.
What a lie it was...
During the campaign,
he had a black list of media organizations
including the Washington Post,
the Des Moines Register,
Politico, BuzzFeed,
that he prohibited from getting
press credentials in the usual way,
to come to his rallies and speeches.
Give us a chance
to ask a question--
- Go ahead. Quiet.
- Mr. President elect--
She's asking a question.
Don't be rude.
- Can you give us a question?
- Don't be rude.
No, I'm not giving you a question.
I'm not giving you a question.
You are fake news.
We just can't predict
how much President Trump
is going to be prepared to do
to implement.
What we do know will be his anger
at some of the coverage of him.
Donald Trump tweeting this morning,
taking on the New York Times.
I mean, there's no way
that he will not be filled with fury,
filled with fury
at things that some, maybe most,
newspapers will say.
What we can't predict
is what his advisors will say to him.
Peter Thiel, the Silicon
Valley venture capitalist and investor,
one of the early Trump supporters,
going to visit the President-elect.
He has been so terrific
and so outstanding,
and he got just about the biggest applause
at the Republican National Convention.
He's ahead of the curve,
and I want to thank him.
He's a very special guy.
What will his children
say to him?
How far down the road of suppression -
there's no other word -
he'd be prepared to go
to punish entities that anger him?
If a President Trump
were to come after a journalist
the way candidate Trump came after me,
it could be potentially dangerous.
Without a meaningful application
of the First Amendment,
you have a true risk
of living in a suppressive state,
of living in a country
in which a president who thinks
he's doing the right things -
they always do -
who thinks that his critics
are harming the country -
they always do -
can limit the ability of the press,
the willingness of the press,
to expose, to criticize, and the like.
There is enough chance
that the president will be upset enough,
angry enough, vengeful enough
to try to take whatever actions
he thinks he can
to punish those who have offended him.
We're talking about the highest,
most powerful institution in the world,
which is the Executive Branch
of the United States' government.
Repeat after me.
I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear.
I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear.
That I will faithfully execute...
That I will faithfully execute...
The office
of President of the United States.
The office
of President of the United States.
And will, to the best of my ability...
And will, to the best of my ability...
Preserve, protect, and defend...
Preserve, protect, and defend...
The Constitution of the United States.
The Constitution of the United States.
- So help me God.
- So help me God.
Congratulations, Mr. President.
We have
a very threatening situation.
We have a man in power,
the president of the United States,
who doesn't seem to care about
the distinction between true and false.
I get up this morning,
I turn on one of the networks,
and they show an empty field...
This was the largest audience
to ever witness an inauguration, period.
It's possible we are sliding
toward authoritarian rule
in the United States,
which is a shocking thing to say,
but there are many signs that it's true.
It's gotten to a point
where it's not even being reported.
This is something that
we need journalists to try and oppose.
Kelly Anne, CNN and other organizations
cover terrorism around the world
all the time.
Saying that we don't cover terrorism,
that's just false.
When they are in this position,
where they're sort of on the front lines
of the slide toward authoritarianism,
just trying to do their job
turns them into the opposition.
Look, alternative facts are not facts.
They're falsehoods.
At the moment, you're seeing
a surreal scene in Washington,
where you have, to an unprecedented degree
in the modern age,
a White House willing
to blast the press as an adversary
on an hourly basis.
The leaks are absolutely real.
The news is fake,
because so much of the news is fake.
This is a moment of real definition
for the press.
You know, journalism
has to be independent.
Journalism has to stand on its own ground.
Journalism has to be humble
about its own shortcomings,
it has to be transparent about
how it reaches conclusions
and have those be earned conclusions...
Thank you for listening.
...presented fairly,
but it has to be tough-minded, too.
Reporting is the only job
specifically listed in the Bill of Rights
as protected.
It is a sacred public trust,
a vital civic function:
truly, the Fourth Estate,
the watchdog over the powerful.
Without good, strong journalism,
you don't have a healthy democracy.
Reince, the president believes
that a free and independent press
is a threat to the country.
We demand to know
the answer to this question.
You owe this to the American people.
Here's a message to the White House:
if you keep lying, we'll keep reporting.
The job that I had
is about speaking truth to power.
It's about standing up.
One of the things
that makes it a republic
is that we're not, supposedly,
ruled by the elite class.
And the only way
to hold people to account,
whether it's government or a corporation,
is to be able to dig,
without being crushed
under the rubble of it.
A reporter gets the story,
a reporter goes over, under, around
to get the facts, to get the truth.
What does it matter if you don't have
100 journalists turning over rocks,
telling people things that
they couldn't find out on their own?
It matters a lot.
It's part of the bedrock of democracy.
One of the things
that I will forever be proud of
is the fact that I pissed off
a billionaire enough
for him to vindictively destroy
my company.
To help protect our water and air
for our generations
and my kids' generations.
Do you believe in science?
Because that's a pretty good
job description.
Like, if you're not
pissing off a billionaire,
then there's not much point.
He does not seem to respect
the idea of accountability.
Journalism is worth protecting.
The press represents the public.
If we lose it, we've lost
what America actually is and stands for.
Journalists need to remember
why they got into this business:
to tell the truth...
We will not walk in fear... go up against
powerful institutions,
to afflict the comfortable
and comfort the afflicted
and keep their roles in mind,
and do them better
than they've ever done them before.
The stakes are very high.
We have to fight harder than ever,
and we have to fight smarter than ever.