Gawker has removed a controversial post about Conde Nast CFO David Geithner allegedly trying to arrange a rendezvous with a gay escort.
The post has been replaced with a link to a statement by Gawker CEO Nick Denton explaining the decision to take down the story. “It was an editorial call, a close call around which there were more internal disagreements than usual. And it is a decision I regret,” Denton wrote.
“‘We put truths on the internet.’ That has been the longstanding position of Gawker journalists, some of the most uncompromising and uncompromised on the internet,” Denton continued. “I cannot blame our editors and writers for pursuing that original mission.”
But according to Denton, the media landscape has changed since the site’s founding in 2003. “Not only is criticism of yesterday’s piece from readers intense, but much of what they’ve said has resonated. Some of our own writers, proud to work at one of the only independent media companies, are equally appalled,” he wrote.
“I believe this public mood reflects a growing recognition that we all have secrets, and they are not all equally worthy of exposure,” he said. “I can’t defend yesterday’s story as I can our coverage of Bill O’Reilly, Hillary Clinton or Hulk Hogan.”
Gawker is currently fighting a $100 million lawsuit filed by Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, for publishing a leaked video that showed the wrestling legend having sex with the ex-wife of wrestler and radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge.
Denton acknowledged that removing the post will only go so far to mitigate its effects. “This action will not turn back the clock,” he said. “David Geithner’s embarrassment will not be eased. But this decision will establish a clear standard for future stories. It is not enough for them simply to be true. They have to reveal something meaningful. They have to be true and interesting. These texts were interesting, but not enough, in my view.”
“In light of Gawker’s past rhetoric about our fearlessness and independence, this can be seen as a capitulation,” Denton concluded. “And perhaps, to some extent, it is. But it is motivated by a sincere effort build a strong independent media company, and to evolve with the audience we serve.”
The site received heavy backlash for publishing the original story, with Gawker senior writer Adam Weinstein writing, “I had no part in this. I would not have chosen to run it as is.”