Image: Terry Bollea, known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, testifies in his case against the news website Gawker in St. Petersburg, Florida March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Boyzell Hosey/Pool
By Letitia Stein
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Reuters) – As a larger-than-life celebrity, Hulk Hogan considered it entertainment when he embellished his sex life but the Gawker news website crossed a line by posting a video of him having sex with a friend’s wife, the former professional wrestler testified on Tuesday.
Hogan is seeking $100 million in damages from Gawker in a case that weighs a celebrity’s right to privacy against freedom of the press.
Hogan testified he still is suffering from the release of the one-minute, 41-second edited sex clip in 2012.
“Everything changed in my life from that point forward,” he said.
The sexual encounter came five years before the video was posted and Hogan, one of the wrestling world’s lead figures in the 1980s and ’90s, said it had been recorded at a personal low point as he went through a divorce.
“I was moving forward and this tape really sabotaged me,” he said.
Attorneys for Gawker, which could be financially ruined by a loss, claim that it was Hogan who made his sex life a public matter. On Tuesday they presented him with clips from interviews and excerpts from his reality TV show, for which he was filmed on a toilet, and comments he had made about the size of his penis.
Hogan emphasized the difference between his private character and the bombastic persona he used professionally with “artistic liberty.”
He acknowledged embellishing the number of women he slept with and his penis description and realized that he shed his anonymity in public. But in his house, or in a trusted friend’s private bedroom, Hogan told the court: “Nobody invades my privacy.”
Over two days of testimony, Hogan has described how he ended up having consensual sex with the wife of his then-best friend, radio “shock jock” Bubba the Love Sponge, in Bubba’s home. Hogan said he did not know the encounter was being taped.
“My problem is this whole videotape that you guys put out, that lives forever,” a weary-looking Hogan, wearing a signature black bandana, told a Gawker lawyer under cross-examination.
His attorneys on Monday said the Gawker video was viewed by 2.5 million people over six months, despite their efforts to take it down.
The civil trial in St. Petersburg, Florida, near Hogan’s home, could last three weeks.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Dominic Evans and Bill Trott)
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