Hulk Hogan took the stand for the second day in a Florida courtroom, answering questions from the legal team defending Gawker. The former wrestling champ is suing the website for $100 million after the site published a portion of a sex tape of Hogan with his friend’s then-wife in 2012.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, was recorded in the mid-2000s having sex with Heather Clem, the former wife of Hogan’s estranged best friend Todd Clem, a radio personality in Florida. The Clems divorced in 2012.
Hogan, wearing a black bandana and matching suit, took the stand again to answer questions from Gawker’s attorneys, which focused on how Hogan initially responded to the tape’s release. The former wrestler also explained in some detail how the tape affected his life after Gawker posted it.
The defense brought up an interview Hogan gave to Howard Stem about the tape. Hogan said he spoke about the incident only because he was “under heavy fire” from Stern. He added that he never told Stern not to talk about the tape because that’s what a guest does on the “character-driven” show.
“You have to take the good with the bad,” Hogan said of Stern’s show. “That’s his show, he’s in control … you have to follow his lead, that’s how his show works.”
Clips were then played from the interview, with Stern hyping up the sex tape and Hogan responding with a joke.
“In that context, I was trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Hogan replied, later saying there was talk of cancelling the media tour but that “Howard Stern kind of changes the game for you” when promoting an event like wrestling.
Other clips were shown, where Hogan again answered that he was playing the character of “Hulk Hogan” and not himself.
“In that mode, it’s entertainment … you can be a character,” he said. “You have the liberty to go way out there.”
When asked why he discussed the tape with reporters, Hogan said, “I just didn’t have a choice. We were getting barraged with the media … the problem was when we tried to get Gawker to take it down, they wouldn’t take it down … it just fueled this fire that was overwhelming.”
Hogan was adamant that when he gave interviews he was concerned fans would think it was a publicity stunt. He also said the posting of the 30-minute video changed him forever.
“There were people who thought I might have something to do with this,” he said. “If I was in this thing to make money, there were all these offers … no, brother we don’t want to make money off this, we don’t want this happening.”
When the sex tape was posted in 2012, “my whole world went upside down. This tape totally sabotaged me,” Hogan said. He admitted that he wasn’t able to sleep, eat and just “felt like I was turned inside out.”
Even when meeting with fans, especially children, Hogan said it felt like a cloud was hanging over his head, adding that he still feels that way now.
Before lunch, Hogan’s past reality show, “Hogan Knows Best,” and books about his life were brought up, to which he again said certain private scenes were part of the “good and the bad” of being an entertainer.
On Monday, the wrestler said he had no idea a sex tape was being recorded when he slept with Clem’s wife. The filming of the tape occurred before Hogan and his wife Linda divorced in 2009. Hogan is now married to Jennifer McDaniel.
Gawker’s legal team has repeatedly argued that the video’s publication is protected by the First Amendment and that images of Hogan are of interest to the public because he is a celebrity.
In his opening statement, Gawker’s lawyer Michael Berry claimed Hogan filed his lawsuit in an effort to get “lots and lots of money.” He added that the website’s founder, Nick Denton, wanted “the public to have the simple, unvarnished truth…about public figures.”
The jury in the Pinellas County Circuit Court will determine whether or no Gawker had violated Hogan’s right to privacy when it published the video. The trial is expected to span weeks.