All corners of the Internet on Friday morning seemed to be united in outrage against Gawker for publishing an ethical mess of an article that people said “gay-shamed” and helped blackmail a publishing executive.
Gawker staff writer Jordan Sargent on Thursday published text messages that were supposedly handed to the news site by a gay porn star who also worked as an escort. Gawker said the man did not want to reveal his identity for “professional reasons” and the story identified him only as “Ryan.” The text messages were purportedly exchanged with David Geithner, the chief financial officer at Condé Nast and brother of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The text messages weren’t especially noteworthy, showing the logistics of the two men arranging to rendezvous in Chicago.
The latter half of Gawker’s story was concerned with relating what Ryan said were his trials and travails after getting evicted from a Texas apartment building. Ryan said that he was kicked out because his landlord found out he was a gay porn star, and he turned to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for help, to no avail. He told Gawker he felt the executive “might be able to use his influence to overturn HUD’s decision” after Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) office failed to sway the federal housing agency on his behalf, according to the report.
The executive declined to help Ryan’s housing discrimination case and backed out of their planned rendezvous in Chicago, according to Gawker. The porn star then approached Gawker with the text messages, telling the website that he “has no vendetta” against the executive and “just wants to publicize his case against HUD.”
The executive denied texting with Ryan in a statement to Gawker.
“I don’t know who this individual is. This is a shakedown,” he said. “I have never had a text exchange with this individual. He clearly has an ulterior motive that has nothing to do with me.”
Prominent journalists, several of whom are openly gay, assailed Gawker for “gay-shaming” the executive and accused the website of helping Ryan blackmail him:
I’m a fan of Gawker & several of its journalists, but that article is reprehensible beyond belief: it’s deranged to publish that.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 17, 2015
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) July 17, 2015
— Gabriel Arana (@gabrielarana) July 17, 2015
There’s no excuse for the Gawker piece, which I won’t link to. It’s disgraceful, and it shouldn’t be referred to as journalism.
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) July 17, 2015
Just read a piece entirely based on hearsay, unconfirmed, and designed to blackmail a C-suite executive. Grossest thing I’ve seen in ages.
— Heidi N Moore (@moorehn) July 17, 2015
I get Gawker wanting to expose millionaires who cheat, but this is accomplice to blackmail. And the guy isn’t some bigot in need of outing.
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) July 17, 2015
One Gawker writer also distanced himself from the piece:
I had no part in this. I would not have chosen to run it as is. http://t.co/kHOz1YA87S
— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) July 17, 2015
As of Friday morning, the website’s top brass were standing behind the piece. Editor-in-chief Max Read tweeted that the executive’s position within a major media company and the fact that he solicited a male escort while married to a woman justified running the piece:
given the chance gawker will always report on married c-suite executives of major media companies fucking around on their wives
— max read (@max_read) July 17, 2015
TPM illustration by associate editor Nick R. Martin.