The Slatest

Peter Thiel Says He Went After Gawker for the Little Guy, Like Racist Millionaire Hulk Hogan

PayPal co-founder and former CEO Peter Thiel at the National Press Club October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC.  

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel confirmed to Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times Wednesday that he scouted out potential plaintiffs and bankrolled lawsuits targeting Gawker Media, including Hulk Hogan’s complaint that won him a $140 million judgment. Thiel told the Times he spent approximately $10 million to fund a team of lawyers to help what he described as “victims” of the site, which began as a gossip publication.

A 2007 Gawker article about Thiel’s sexuality lit the fuse and he hired a legal team several years ago to scour for potential cases to be brought against Gawker that he could financially support. Instead of settling, with Thiel’s financial backing the plaintiffs’ held out and took the cases to court. “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel told the Times. But it’s a little bit about revenge. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest,” he said.

Here’s more of what Thiel had to say to the Times:

Mr. Thiel said that Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted.” He said, “I thought it was worth fighting back.” Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves. He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone…”

“I didn’t really want to do anything,” he said. “I thought it would do more harm to me than good. One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.” …

“It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.” Mr. Thiel said he had not targeted any other media companies.

Thiel said his crusade against Gawker is “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.” “It’s not for me to decide what happens to Gawker,” he said. That’s why he helped sue the company and pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.