Denton resumed his testimony Tuesday morning before a St. Petersburg, Fla., jury maintaining that it didn’t matter if Bollea was filmed without his knowledge; Gawker had the First Amendment on its side. The plaintiff, who waged the $100 million lawsuit, has argued that in publishing the clip, Gawker violated his right to privacy, causing him “emotional distress,” among other things.
Denton addressed the issue of distress, offering: “I think doing the job of a journalist would be unbearable if one was to always put oneself in the shoes of a subject.”
The media exec explained that A.J. Daulerio, who served as editor of Gawker.com when the clip was published, adhered to his company’s principles of being “honest about the facts” of a story, being honest about one’s “motivations” for writing the story and for the story to be “interesting.”
“We wanted them [Gawker staff] to focus on the core of being a journalist, which is to put out things that are true and that readers would connect with and be interested in,” Denton said of the principles.
But Bollea’s lawyer worked to undermine Denton’s lofty talk on truth in journalism when he had him read from Daulerio’s 2012 story that accompanied the video.
“Use your most humanizing tones [when you read],” the lawyer said, referring to words Denton had used to describe Daulerio’s story on the sexual encounter.
Denton proceeded to read a graphic description of a scene in the video of an oral sex act. As the recitation continued, Denton seemed undeterred, and noted moments later that he doesn’t regret posting the story because it is about “a world-famous celebrity.”
Although Daulerio had testified on Monday that he didn’t consult with Denton before writing the story, the media exec backed up his former editor.
“None of the facts are really in dispute. One may not like the facts. We did not create the facts. They are, as far as I’m aware, all true. I think A.J. Daulerio was not just honest in his reporting, he was honest in his motivations and he was honest about the motivations of the readers who would be drawn to the piece and it was interesting,” Denton said. “We’re talking about it now. People were talking about it at the time. It has raised bigger issues around the balance between free press and privacy. I don’t think anyone could really dispute that it’s been an interesting piece — painful for many people, many people on the plaintiffs’ side and on the defenses’ side — but ultimately true and interesting, and core to what we do.”
When asked why Gawker didn’t take down the post once it received a cease-and-desist letter from Bollea’s attorneys shortly after it was published, Denton said: “I didn’t find it persuasive.”
“Do you believe that noncelebrities have the right to privacy in their own bedrooms?” asked the judge on behalf of a juror.
“Yes, I don’t think it’s newsworthy to do a story about a private individual with their partner in the privacy of their own home,” Denton said.