J.K. Trotter, Gawker:
One day after the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed his clandestine legal attack on Gawker Media to the New York Times, Gawker reporter Ashley Feinberg published a lengthy investigation that sought to solve the enduring mystery of Donald Trump’s infamous mane, which she described as a “cotton candy hairspray labyrinth.”
But if you were under the impression that praise-worthy journalism is somehow inoculated against campaigns like Thiel’s, you’d be mistaken. Last week, Thiel’s lawyer-for-hire, Charles J. Harder, sent Gawker a letter on behalf of Ivari International’s owner and namesake, Edward Ivari, in which Harder claims that Feinberg’s story was “false and defamatory,” invaded Ivari’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed “tortious interference” with Ivari’s business relations. Harder enumerates 19 different purportedly defamatory statements—almost all of which were drawn from several publicly available lawsuits filed against Ivari.
Harder’s demands included the immediate removal of the story from Gawker, a public apology, the preservation of “all physical and electronic documents, materials and data in your possession” related to the story, and, notably, that we reveal our sources.
The precedent has been set: billionaires are allowed to silence and drive into the ground publications with which they disagree. It doesn’t matter that Feinberg’s piece is well-sourced, well-reported, and of public interest. Gawker now has to brace themselves for another fight that can likely trace back to Thiel. Apparently, he’s so committed to destroying Gawker that he won’t stop at a Chapter 11 filing — he’ll stop when Nick Denton is living in a Cheerios box on the High Line.
Thiel is supporting Trump’s bid for president.