“In a society where we have the rich getting richer and the media fragmented and difficult to sustain as it is, this is the kind of thing that could happen all the time,” Waxman said in a panel discussion Thursday. “It doesn’t sound like speech. It sounds like something rich people get to do.”
Waxman spoke on TheWrap’s panel “The First Amendment in The Age of Trump” following a screening of the new documentary “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.” It charts how Gawker’s decision to publish Hulk Hogan‘s sex tape led to a trial that has potentially opened the flood gates for billionaires to make news outlets they don’t like disappear.
Waxman shared an instance when she and TheWrap were sued by “a millionaire heiress” whose pride was hurt when she didn’t like the story that ran about her.
“We had to suffer this lawsuit going through the courts for two years, a million dollars was spent, it would’ve put us out of business at that time, and the case died one day when the woman failed to show up in court, and the judge threw it out,” Waxman said.
Thankfully TheWrap was covered by insurance, but Waxman pointed to Sheldon Adelson privately purchasing the Las Vegas Review-Journal and John Oliver’s recent report on Sinclair Media Group as examples of how anyone could use their wealth to influence the media.
“Anybody can decide that they don’t like something that was written about them, and they’re going to be encouraged by Trump,” Waxman said. “These are all really concerning.”
Waxman added that the right to privacy is still a serious matter, but she’s less sure about the specifics of the Hulk Hogan case as depicted in “Nobody Speak.”
“The idea that Hulk Hogan and Terry Bollea have two different penises is something very difficult for me to get my brain around,” Waxman said.
Watch the video of Waxman’s comments above, and check out the complete video and recap here.