Netflix Documentary, NOBODY SPEAK: Trials of the Free Press was just recently released.
In 2015, Hulk Hogan sued the news website Gawker for posting a sex tape featuring him in bed with Heather Clem, then wife of his best friend, Bubba the Love Sponge. The jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages which forced Gawker to shut down. Last year, Gawker settled with Hulk aka Terry Bollea for $31 million.
Despite the ridiculous elements of the trial — seeing Hulk Hogan on the witness stand, dressed in all black, including his trademark bandana — it turned out to be a tremendously important First Amendment case. The trial was quintessentially American in its mix of absurdity and massive implications.
Details of the Gawker case read like something out of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Hogan reportedly knew he was being filmed, and he later joked about the tape to Howard Stern. Hogan bragged about his sexual performance to Stern but insisted that was a part of the character Hulk Hogan, not the real Terry Bollea, who was personally traumatized by the leak. Hulk was accused of being racist after the audio version of the sex tape came out – which very well may have negatively impacted his life and future employment opportunities.
During the trail, Michael Sullivan, Gawker’s lawyer played an audio clip in which Hogan is discussing the size of his penis while appearing as a guest on The Howard Stern Show.
Sullivan asked if there’s any doubt as to whether Hogan is referring to the length of his manhood.
“Well, it’s not mine, because mine isn’t that size, but we were discussing the length of Hulk Hogan’s.”
An exasperated and dumbfounded Sullivan only responded with one word. “Seriously?”
“No, seriously, I do not have a 10-inch penis. No, I do not. Seriously. Believe that. Seriously,” Hogan responded.
The Hogan trial eventually bankrupted Gawker and its co-founder Nick Denton. So how could the Hulkster, who wasn’t exactly at his peak financially while all this was going down, possibly afford his expensive legal counsel?
Well, it turns out his legal expenses were bankrolled by tech mogul (PayPal founder), billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, who was outed by Gawker as being gay. Did Thiel use Hogan as revenge against Gawker? The new documentary Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, currently streaming on Netflix, uses the Gawker lawsuit as its theoretical jumping-off point. It explores how the case is symptomatic of a much larger issue facing journalism. The documentary does cover Donald Trump in a negative light, portraying him as a threat to the status quo of journalism. Lambasting him for repeatedly taking about “fake news” during his rise to the presidency.