Faced with two new lawsuits based on articles published on the sites Jezebel and Deadspin, publisher Gizmodo Media Group has asked a judge to protect it from lawsuits funded by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, according to The Wall Street Journal. (The sites previously operated under Gawker Media.)
The lawsuits stem from a Deadspin article about oddsmaker RJ Bell, which Bell claims made false statements, and several Jezebel stories that claim “life coach” Gregory Scherick’s Superstar Machine is a cult.
The lawyer representing both Bell and Scherick is Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in the case that brought down Gawker in 2016. Thiel famously funded Hogan’s legal representation in an attempt to strike back at the media company, which had published articles about him in the past.
Currently, Gizmodo Media is funding representation in both lawsuits. Gawker.com and Thiel signed an agreement last month stating that Thiel would no longer be able to finance litigation against former Gawker writers. Gizmodo wants the court to extend that agreement to former Gawker sites now under its purview.
Just last month, Thiel agreed he would no longer pursue his quest to purchase the Gawker Media archives in a bid. Many feared he wanted to gain control only to delete them from existence. Former Gawker employees even started a Kickstarter to attempt to both gain ownership of the archives and possibly resurrect the publication.
Thiel’s suspected predatory moves have proven deadly to independent journalism in the past. Gawker’s lawsuit with Hogan sent it into bankruptcy, and it isn’t clear that Thiel has ended his feud.
While it may be a coincidence that the lawyer Thiel paid to take down Gawker is now representing clients with pending lawsuits against Jezebel and Deadspin, the coincidence seems a little too neat.
It feels like a sickening case of déjà vu, in which an already assailed media company is continuing to have its assets stripped away. In the process, outlets like Jezebel, which has become respected for its cultural reporting and investigative pieces for over a decade, is threatened by enemies with deep pockets and shallow vision.
A judge will review the protection request and the settlement during a hearing on Thursday in Manhattan.