How the Relationship Between Hulk Hogan and Heather Cole Led to the End of Gawker


Apr. 27 2020, Updated 11:46 a.m. ET

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Hulk Hogan is known to the world as a famous wrestler, but inside a 2016 courtroom, he was called by his real name, Terry Bollea. In a lawsuit, which was filed by Hulk, the wrestler sued the online publication Gawker for publishing a sex tape of him and Heather Cole, then Heather Clem. Hulk ultimately won the case, and Gawker went bankrupt as a result. While that information is fairly widely known, the details of how the sex tape was filmed are a little less clear. 

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How did the sex tape get filmed?

Hulk and Heather were filmed having sex in 2006, when Heather was married to Hulk‘s best friend, Bubba Clem. During the trial, both Heather and Hulk claimed they were not aware they were being recording at the time, and only discovered the existence of the tape afterward. It’s been alleged that Bubba was the one who filmed the encounter, according to the NY Daily News

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During Heather’s testimony, she also claimed her husband was the one who set her up with Hulk. "I was asked to go to Mr. Bollea's room by my husband, and I did," Heather said during a filmed deposition that was played during the trial. This testimony contradicted Hulk’s, as he claimed Heather had hounded him for sex. 

Heather was also asked whether her husband was typically responsible for picking who he had sex with. “On the occasion that I had sex with someone other than him, yes," she said. Heather also testified that, when she discovered the tape existed, she demanded it be destroyed, and believed it had been until it was published on Gawker years later. 

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Did Hulk know he was being filmed?

Although Heather‘s testimony provided a pretty clear story of how she and Hulk wound up recording a sex tape, her ex-husband was less clear about the events leading up to the tape’s creation. Bubba invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify during the trial. He and Hulk settled a previous lawsuit for $5,000 over the sex tape. 

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When he has discussed the tape’s creation, though, his story has been inconsistent. According to Business Insider, Bubba previously testified under oath that Hulk did not know he was being filmed when the tape was created. In the past, though, he‘s said the opposite, claiming that Hulk was aware of what was happening at the time. 

What Hulk’s victory meant

Although the question of whether Hulk knew he was being filmed at the time has not been totally resolved, the fallout from the 2016 case had major implications for legal precedent. In the case, Gawker’s team was arguing that punishing the publication for publishing the tape would be a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. Hulk’s team, meanwhile, argued that the publication had violated his privacy. 

When Hulk ultimately won the lawsuit, many advocates for the freedom of the press ultimately saw his victory as a negative thing. Gawker was fined $115 million in damages, which ultimately led to the end of the publication. 

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