Sunday, April 8, 2018

Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Scandal (2016)

Hulk Hogan Sex Scandal - What Really Happened?
Celebrity sex tapes are not anything new to the world of entertainment news. Throughout the years, many tapes have been leaked or sold, leading the world to see the most private part of an individual’s life. Most of the notable ones people can name easily, such as Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and Pamela Anderson. Many celebrities often have inappropriate photos leaked as well, whether it is from someone who is blackmailing them or it is someone who sold them for the money. Unfortunately, Terry Bollea is not an exception to this rule. Bollea, more commonly known as Hulk Hogan from the Wrestling and Entertainment role, had a sex tape leaked from Gawker Media in 2016 from which he states was a “low time in his life” (The Washington Post, 2016).
Hulk vs Gawker Photo Edited by Fans

Many people would argue that celebrities who have sex tapes leaked do these things to themselves. They would say, “If you don’t want anyone to see it, don’t do it” or “don’t have sex on camera.” Bollea stated that the tape was made without him knowing, which is completely possible since he was in a rough patch in his life at the time it was made. It’s no secret that throughout the past ten years, Bollea had been fired from the World Wrestling Entertainment industry for racial slurs, he got a divorce from his longtime wife, Linda, and has been trying to pick up the pieces of the life he had known for what seems like forever. He is no stranger to fame; many people just know Bollea as Hulk Hogan and nothing else. On top of his time in the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Bollea had his own reality show ‘Hogan Knows Best’ that was featured on VH1 in the early 2000s in the peak of his career.
The cast of "Hogan Knows Best" on VH1
Regardless of whether or not he was a commonly known name, Bollea did not deserve the actions that Gawker Media took against him. How did Gawker Media get the tapes? It is a mystery. Clem could have sold them to Gawker Media for money, she could have posted it for the limelight and then Gawker could have obtained it, but it is unclear at this moment. If it has been determined how the tapes were acquired by Gawker, it is something that has not been released to the media.

Bollea claimed that he moved forward with the lawsuit against Gawker Media in hopes that if he pressed charges and won, that it would cause a lesser amount of cases such as this to happen (The Washington Post, 2016). Bollea did not automatically press charges, which should be noted. Media sources state that he reached out to Gawker Media and asked for the video to be removed to no avail. Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media, filed for bankruptcy shortly after the trial since he had $100 million to $500 million in liabilities and that the company was worth $10 million to $50 million. After the trial, the madness did not end: former Gawker editor, AJ Daulerio, posted on social media stating that he still had a copy of the sex tape in his possession.

The Stakeholders - Who does this effect?
Hulk Hogan in the prime of his career in the WWE
There are several stakeholders in this ethical controversy and they are not limited to Terry Bollea himself and Gawker Media. Those are the first two, but it does boil over too much more. The stakeholders are the two main players, Bollea and Gawker, AJ Daulerio who is the former editor, Heather and Bubba Clem, the other two businesses that Gawker had (Jezebel and Gizmodo), the World Wrestling Entertainment business, and the fans of Bollea were all affected. Naturally, Bollea is the main stakeholder; he was the victim of this situation although others would argue that he made a choice and he served the consequences of that choice. He was the one that received the bad publicity and had a tape of him having sex leaked. It is a similar situation for Heather Clem who had a private thing put on display for the world to see; her ex-husband, Bubba Clem, is indirectly involved as a stakeholder because he is Heather’s ex and Bollea’s ex-best friend. Gawker Media lost their business and their two side blogs, Jezebel and Gizmodo, after filing for bankruptcy following the trial. AJ Dauleio is a stakeholder because he was this company main editor – and he decided to draw more of the limelight to him by revealing his attempt at a revenge plot. He will most likely not get another suitable job due to this. The World Wrestling Entertainment is a stakeholder because they were the ones that gave Bollea his trademark name as Hulk Hogan and although they severed ties following a racist remark by Bollea, he will always be known as that main figure in the WWE. Those who have followed Bollea following his career in the WWE are also stakeholders because they may have been let down that someone who has been their idol for so long has let them down by doing something like this.

Individualism Theory
Individualism theory is based loosely on the financial situation and the view of the people on the company itself. It asks what the business can do to make money while still remaining ethical. It doesn’t take into account the identity of former leaders, the motivation of investors to invest socially and responsibly into businesses, and the motivation of customers and employees to remain ethical. Prior to researching this scandal, I was personally unaware of Gawker Media but it is not safe to say that others have had the same experience. It is similar to the company Buzzfeed, where people may obtain most of their news. Until the trial, many people may not have been aware of Gawker Media, leading people to be disappointed in the source. Gawker did not get into the position of power it was in overnight though, so they have had great success until recently. The media source could have made a great amount of money without going to the lengths that they did. They could have posted reliable sources and obtained proper information from the parties involved in the tape before posting it. Bollea himself is also a business considering his past with the WWE and his reality TV show; he is a household name and therefore a money-making enterprise. He could have not made the decisions he made and things would have been different, alas we are all human and make mistakes which Bollea admitted to. If he did not have an affair with Heather Clem, this situation never would have happened. Bollea did make a great sum of money suing Gawker, though, which went into his pocket as the other business went under.
Terry Bollea in court during the trial in March 2016

Utilitarianism Theory
Utilitarianism is a view that believes in what is good for each individual stakeholder. It reviews the costs and benefits of each party involved and what would cause the best-case scenario for each person. In a way, it was a good thing that this happened for Bollea because he had been out of the spotlight for a while and it brought the light back to him and his business. He received many invitations for interviews which he was undoubtedly paid for his time. He won the case against Gawker and obtained millions and millions of dollars for a bad decision. Bollea came out of this in a positive number while Gawker sank. Gawker put a lot on the line by posting this video without consent and in the end, they ended up in the red and going bankrupt. They lost their company which they put a lot of time, effort, and money into. Gawker most likely had a lot of success in the past but instead of going the route they were, they ended up going in a sour direction that inevitably caused their demise. They thought the decision to post the tape was a good one – that they would get views and money and fame. In the end, it was the complete opposite. Bollea was the only person that benefited from this upset, which would mean his mistake was for his greater good.

Kantianism Theory
Kantianism is based on Kant’s basic principles. They are to act rationally and not inconsistently with your own rules, to allow and help people make rational decisions, to respect people and their autonomy, needs and differences, and to be motivated by good and to do what is right. Gawker may have thought that it was rational to post a video without consent, but it appeared to be inconsistent with what they had done in the past because Gawker suffered a great loss by making this executive decision. They did not help others involved to make rational decisions because in the end, no matter what people would have done, the video was posted which directly disrespected the infamous Hulk Hogan and Heather Clem. They may have been motivated by good but only for their direct profit – they did not do a good thing with good intentions by any means. They obtained media coverage and money by posting a video without consent. If they were to go forward with actions like this, they would have to directly inform Bollea and Clem of their intentions and how they should proceed so all parties involved are on the same page. It is still undetermined how the video was obtained, but Bollea should have been informed that he was being taped in the first place as well so he could be aware of the consequences of his actions through the media. Bollea made the autonomous decision to have sex with Clem, but Gawker completely overrode his autonomy by posting the video.
Brand Logo for Gawker Media

Virtue Ethics
Finally, Virtue Ethics is based on the ethics of philosopher Aristotle. These virtues are what he believed allowed humans to function properly, and in turn, businesses to function as well, appropriately and ethically. These virtues that guide this view are courage, honesty, temperance and self-control, and justice and fairness.  People would say that Gawker had courage when posting the video, but the guideline of Virtue Ethics does not mean that; it means that the individual had the courage to promote a greater good and to stand for the right reasons. Their primary reason was most likely to make money and to get some attention, which for business those are the right reasons but it does not make it ethical. On the other hand, Bollea had the courage to take legal steps to protect himself, and as he said, to protect others from a similar situation. Bollea was also honest when he admitted that he had an affair and was honest in stating that he was in a tough spot in his life that caused him to make those decisions. Gawker took down the video, said that it was taken down, and then put it back up on top of the main editor holding on to it. This is not honest by any means. Bollea did have an appropriate temperance and self-control when speaking about the issue. He was not rude or brash in any interview he had done and did state he is taking legal action. AJ Dauleio showed the opposite when he posted he still has the tape and plans to post it once more in the future and disappear. Bollea also sought justice and had the tape taken down to prevent any more backlash, and people may argue that Gawker did the right thing when they finally took it down but ended up bankrupt due to their actions. If Gawker wanted to maintain proper virtue ethics, they would have done something about the video when it first came into their hands by stating that they had it and notifying the parties involved, they would have been honest from the start by stating that they did post it without authorization, practiced common good manners about the issue, and abiding by a proper code of ethics that are just and appropriate.

Overview and Next Steps
At the end of the day, matters like this will always happen whether it is in the media or in people’s personal lives. Everyone makes not-so-great decisions in their life, but they need to be aware of the consequences and be ready to accept them. Sometimes it does take an unethical matter like this to happen to make people realize it. Going forward, there are things that both media companies and individuals can take to make things like this happen less. Things like releases identify the reasons why an individuals photos or videos are being used, how they will be used, and when and if they will no longer be used. This is an idea that most companies use, but in the world of the rich and famous, it is almost as if anything is fair game. There should also be written consent from individuals, regardless if there is a lease. Overall, individuals need to be more private about their things especially given that the internet has a way of obtaining peoples most private items. People need to be careful about their photos and if they would not send it to a family member, it should not be photographed or recorded.

A. (2016, August 01). Hulk Hogan sex tape publisher Nick Denton files for bankruptcy. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from

R., & Fieldstadt, E. (2016, March 19). Jury Awards Hulk Hogan $115 Million in Gawker Sex-Tape Suit. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from

Marsh, J. (2016, September 29). Ex-Gawker editor still has Hulk Hogans sex tape. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from

Wilkinson, A. (2017, June 23). Hulk Hogan's sex tape and the free press collide in a riveting new
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Yahr, E. (2016, March 23). Hulk Hogan details the story behind his sex tape, talks Gawker verdict on The View. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from

Salazar, H. (2016). The business ethics case manual: the authoritative step-by-step guide to understanding and improving the ethics of any business.

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