Tech billionaire Peter Thiel finally admitted this week to financing Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against Gawker Media over its publication in 2012 of the wrestler’s sex tape.
In a New York Times interview Wednesday, the PayPal co-founder said he has also backed other cases against the gossip site that published a 2007 article called “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”
Thiel — a libertarian who’s backing Donald Trump — didn’t specify the other cases he’s behind. There are at least two other pending suits against Gawker, at least one of which Thiel doesn't appear to be involved in.
However, both pending cases do have one thing in common with the Hogan suit: Los Angeles-based entertainment and business lawyer Charles Harder.
One of those two clients, Shiva Ayyadurai, sued Gawker this month for calling him a “fraud” because he takes credit for having invented email. There’s definitely disagreement about whether Ayyadurai, who’s married to the actress Fran Drescher, did in fact invent email. He’s not a random kook, though: Time Magazine referred to him as “the man who invented email,” and the famous linguist Noam Chomsky has credited Ayyadurai with building electronic mail as we know it.
For his part, Ayyadurai told CNN’s Tom Kludt that Thiel had “zero involvement” in his litigation against Gawker.
He still gave Thiel props for getting involved with Hogan's suit.
The other client of Harder’s, a journalist named Ashley Terrill, sued Gawker in January for libel and breach of confidence over an article it published about her own reporting on the dating app Tinder.
Terrill said she approached a Gawker producer for guidance after she believed she may have been hacked while working on a negative story about Tinder. In her lawsuit, she claimed she shared information about her reporting with Gawker in confidence. If Gawker was asked not to share the information she gave, the site shared it anyway: In November of 2015, the site published a lengthy article about Terrill’s supposed dealings with Tinder.
And Terrill claims much of the information in that article was false, including its characterization of her as being on an “obsessive, possibly unhinged pursuit of what she believes is the truth about Whitney Wolfe,” a co-founder of Tinder.
From Terrill’s lawsuit: “Gawker is a company that routinely engages in wrongful conduct, and specifically, writes and publishes false and defamatory statements about people, invades people’s privacy and other rights, and publishes content that is irresponsible and that no other legitimate publication will publish.”
Terrill is seeking “not less than” $10 million, and Harder’s other client, Ayyadurai, is asking for at least $35 million in damages. Gawker has already been ordered to pay Hulk Hogan $140 million — a huge blow in and of itself. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Gawker was looking at a possible sale.
We reached out to Terrill and Harder to inquire about whether Thiel was involved in her litigation and did not immediately receive a response. We also reached out to Gawker and did not immediately hear back.
Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.