In August of 2015, at the height of the racism scandal that got him removed from WWE’s Hall of Fame and scrubbed from their history, Hulk Hogan went on Good Morning America to beg for forgiveness.
On Wednesday, Hogan returned to the show with a new perspective and optimism, accompanied by that whole “awarded $115 million in damages and $25 million in punitive damages” thing. In his first TV interview after his victory over Gawker, Hogan spoke about the affect the sex tape had on his career, his family, and his own personal well-being.
The highlight is probably Hogan telling the story of going to the bathroom during the trial and running into Gawker founder Nick Denton. That got him thinking about beating Denton up at WrestleMania, and also made him worry what would happen if Denton just pretended Hulk had attacked him.
Denton gave his own response to the verdict in a very long post on Gawker, including an interesting bit on how you draw the line between the fiction and reality of pro wrestlers. An excerpt:
On the stand, Hogan claimed his sexual boasts and inconvenient public statements fell under the umbrella of his “artistic liberty” as an actor. He can be untruthful when in character, he admitted cheerfully, and he is in character whenever he leaves his home. That split personality was revealed at its most bizarre when he gave an example: Hulk Hogan the character has a bigger penis than Terry Bollea the man, he said. Hogan’s is public, Bollea’s is private, but the fact is that most of us can’t tell the character from the man—especially when the trademark bandana is worn by both, even in court.
Fine, that confusion may be a symptom of the modern era, in which everyday life itself becomes a performance on talk radio, reality television, or social media. Indeed, Hogan’s lead counsel spent some time explaining to the jury the concept of “scripted reality,” in which performance and real life are blurred. We heard an echo of the argument recently, when a spokesperson for Donald Trump dismissed his long history of misogynist remarks as the words of “a television character” rather than a presidential candidate.
But these always-on celebrities should not be surprised when their credibility is questioned, and journalists attempt to sort out what is real and what is fake. That’s our job, and we intend to pursue it both in the courts and on the page.
Something tells me none of this is even close to over.