Professional wrestler Hulk Hogan said he was ?left humiliated? by the publication of a secretly recorded sex tape by the news and gossip website Gawker, as he appeared in front of the Florida jury on Monday, for the beginning of his $100 million civil suit.
The 62-year-old wrestler wore his signature bandana with a black suit and a cross necklace and testified for a good half-hour telling the court about how the incident affected his personal and professional life.
?I was embarrassed about what it did to me as a person, but it was even embarrassing as a character,? he said. ?To Hulk Hogan, it was embarrassing.?
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, is seeking $100 million in damages from Gawker Media over the publication of a one-minute, 41-second video that shows him having sex with Heather Clem, the wife of his then-bestfriend, radio jock shock Bubba ?the Love Sponge? Clem.
Hogan said that after the collapse of his marriage, his friend Clem told him in a phone call that his wife Heather wanted to have sex with him. Hogan said he treated it as a joke, but the couple – who he said had an open marriage – were quite persistent and eventually he ended up having sex with Heather.
Hogan testified that he had no idea that his friend had installed a camera in the bedroom where the footage was secretly recorded, a claim that was backed up by Heather Clem in her testimony earlier on Monday.
?It was so weird and so crazy, my gut was telling me that this was off, this was wrong,? Hogan said. ?From the feeling that I had, I said, ?Bubba you?re not filming this are you???
Bubba replied, ?I would never do that to you.?
Hogan said he first became aware of the existence of the sex tape when rival website TMZ called him and informed him of still images of the incident.
After learning that, Hogan testified, ?I was pretty rough ? I felt numb … My hands started shaking violently, I couldn?t quit shaking.? Asked how the whole thing has affected him, Hogan said, ?well, it turned my world upside-down.?
During the opening statements, Hogan?s lawyer Shane Vogt argued that Hogan had a right to expect privacy in a private bedroom and the video was filmed without his knowledge.
He said Gawker had made a ?conscious decision? to release the video as part of their efforts to promote their brand and increase their page views to get money from advertisers through ?viral marketing.?
?For six months, this man [Hogan] stood there, naked and exposed,? said Vogt.
?The reason they kept it up: power and profit,? he said. ?They wanted to inflict harm and they wanted to make money.?
This is why, Vogt said, Hogan?s legal team is seeking ?a reasonable fee? to be paid for each of the people who watched the video.
Gawker sees its 2012 video leak as protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and contended it was reporting on a celebrity who publicly discussed his sex life.
Gawker?s attorney, Michael Berry, countered that Hogan, once regarded as ?America?s hero?, had spoken about deeply personal issues in the media before, including providing details of his sex life, in interviews and in his two autobiographies–My Life?Outside the Ring and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, which Berry held up copies for the court to see.
He also added that the website did not profit from the publication because it was labeled as ?NSFW?, which denotes content is ?not safe for work,? or content that should not be opened on a work computer.
The former WWE star is expected to continue with his testimony on Tuesday for the case that is going through a local, civil court in Hogan?s hometown of St Petersburg, Florida, and expected to last three weeks. A six-member jury will determine whether Gawker violated Hogan?s right to privacy in the case which will be a test of celebrity privacy rights vis-a-vis freedom of the press in the digital age.