The revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel secretly funded a libel lawsuit against Gawker has provoked a lot of handwringing in media circles.
“Be very, very worried,” tweeted Mother Jones Editor Clara Jeffery. Nevermind that most of us don’t publish celebrity sex tapes – how many other fabulously rich people are trying to take down media outlets from the shadows? Now that Gawker is facing a $140 million verdict, will more billionaires try the tactic? It’s hard to know, but we do know the ones who have gone after journalists more directly.
Sheldon Adelson: The casino magnate and major GOP donor sued a Wall Street Journal reporter over an article that described him as “foul-mouthed.” The suit is ongoing. Adelson also sued former newspaper columnist John L. Smith into bankruptcy over a passage in a book. Adelson more recently bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where Smith worked. The columnist resigned after being told he couldn’t write about Adelson.
Frank VanderSloot: The Idaho businessman and Republican donor sued Mother Jones over an article about his company’s contributions to Mitt Romney’s super political action committee. The story noted the company’s “history of run-ins with regulators.” Mother Jones won the case, but only after “the take-no-prisoners legal assault … consumed a good part of the past two and a half years and has cost millions (yes, millions) in legal fees.” And, in an eerie harbinger of this week’s Thiel news, VanderSloot said he was creating a $1 million fund to pay the legal expenses of people suing the “liberal press.”
Donald Trump: In 2009, Trump filed a $5 billion defamation suit against a book author... Read More >