Gawker Removes ‘Gay-Shaming’ Post That Set The Internet Aflame

Gawker Removes Conde Nast Post
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July 17, 2015 2:33 p.m.

Gawker CEO Nick Denton announced Friday afternoon that he ordered the website to remove an article that sparked widespread accusations of needless “gay-shaming” and blackmail of a publishing executive.

Gawker staff writer Jordan Sargent on Thursday published what he said was a text message exchange between an anonymous, gay porn star working as a male escort and David Geithner, the chief financial officer of Condé Nast and the brother of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The porn star approached Gawker with the text messages after the executive did not “use his influence” to help sway the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in a housing discrimination case, as the porn star had hoped.

Virtually all corners of the media condemned the article, including journalists from Poynter and The Huffington Post in addition to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald.

Denton wrote on Gawker’s Kinja commenting platform that he regretted the article’s publication, even though he described it as “true and well-reported.”

“The point of this story was not in my view sufficient to offset the embarrassment to the subject and his family. Accordingly, I have had the post taken down,” Denton wrote. “It is the first time we have removed a significant news story for any reason other than factual error or legal settlement.”

But there was apparently a clear difference of opinion about removing the post between Gawker’s parent company, Gawker Media, and the website’s editorial brass. Gawker staff writer J.K. Trotter wrote that Gawker Media’s managing partnership, which includes its legal counsel, actually had voted 5-1 to take the much-maligned article down over the protests of “every other member of Gawker Media’s editorial leadership.”

Gawker has a history of outing prominent men in media like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Fox News’ Shepard Smith. But as the late media columnist David Carr pointed out back in 2013, Gawker’s efforts on that front had begun to fall flat by the time Smith became a subject of the website’s fixation.

The website’s editor-in-chief, Max Read, had defended the article’s publication by arguing that the executive was fair game by virtue of his position with Condé Nast and the fact that he solicited a male escort while being married to a woman:

But Denton seemed to side with those journalists who had complained on Twitter that outing the executive wasn’t truly in the public interest.

“I believe this public mood reflects a growing recognition that we all have secrets, and they are not all equally worthy of exposure,” Denton wrote. “I can’t defend yesterday’s story as I can our coverage of Bill O’Reilly, Hillary Clinton or Hulk Hogan.”

“We are proud of running stories that others shy away from, often to preserve relationships or access,” he added. “But the line has moved.”

This post has been updated.

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