Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton said he’s “slightly impressed” by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel’s attack on the media.
“It’s kind of like a ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ revenge fantasy for billionaires,” Denton said during his first public interview since writing a scathing open letter to the man trying to bring down his media empire.
Denton appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday morning to discuss Thiel’s decision to fund lawsuits against Gawker, including one from Hulk Hogan, which resulted in a jury ordering the media company to pay the former WWE star $140 million in damages.
“It becomes a story about the power of the billionaire class, particularly the power of the billionaire class in Silicon Valley. They have money. They have wealth. They have anonymity. They have special purpose vehicles. They have offshore accounts,” Denton said.
The Writers Guild of America, East publicly asked Thiel to reveal what other lawsuits he’s secretly funding, but Denton is happy he at least admitted to going after Gawker.
“They are exercising their power from behind the scenes. I think it’s more important than ever that there be an independent media to hold them to account,” Denton added.
The Writers Guild shared similar sentiments.
“Peter Thiel has all but confessed that his primary objective is Gawker’s demise. Plutocrats already have outsized power in this country, and we cannot allow them to use their vast fortunes to silence media companies,” WGAE said in a statement.
Denton challenged Thiel to an “open and public debate” about journalism’s role in society in his open letter on Thursday.
Thiel’s beef with Gawker reportedly started nearly a decade ago when the website revealed him as gay, but Denton says the story had a positive message.
“The story was actually saying that Silicon Valley is a largely straight, white, male preserve,” Denton said. “Here is a figure [Thiel] who’s known widely in Silicon Valley to be gay, an extremely successful, talented venture capitalist. We should be celebrating the full diversity.”
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel said in an interview with The New York Times the day after he was identified.
Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook, is known as an Ayn Rand-style libertarian who funds young people who want to skip college and embrace entrepreneurship.
The New York Post reported that Gawker founder Nick Denton has begun soliciting bids for the company because the Thiel-funded trial is leaving him strapped for cash.