Gawker founder Nick Denton got into a heated discussion Friday morning on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” about the site outing Peter Thiel‘s sexual orientation.
Denton wrote an open letter to Thiel Thursday asking questions about his motivations and other suits he may be funding against the site. This came on the heels of the NYT reporting this week that the billionaire funded Hulk Hogan‘s multi-million dollar lawsuit against Gawker and that he fully intends to destroy the site. Thiel sits on the board of Facebook and is a co-founder of PayPal.
“The last time you were here you said maybe you had some regrets about the hulk hogan situation…would you undo outing Peter Thiel as being gay?” asked Rebecca Quick, who was no friend to Denton during this interview. Gawker outed Theil in 2007 with this headline: “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” The author of the story was Owen Thomas, who graciously outed himself in the piece as well.
Denton initially side-stepped her question, saying, “The biggest regret I have is actually it’s a business regret. We believe that so much of the press, especially in a place like Silicon is acquiescent to power and the money — they ask deferential questions, they wait for the embargoes and we’ve absolutely pushed the boundaries.”
Quick interrupted him: “I agree, but I think you are conflating two issues. I don’t think outing someone’s sexual preference is fair game.”
Denton confided, “Actually I am a gay man. The author of the story on Peter Thiel was a gay man.”
Again she interrupted: “That doesn’t mean you need to tell…”
Denton then went after her for not doing her homework.
“Actually if you read the story…Did you read the story?” he asked.
She replied, “No.”
Please, allow Denton to school her.
“The story was actually saying Silicon Valley is a largely straight white male preserve,” he said. “Here is a figure who is known widely in Silicon Valley to be gay….an extremely successful talented venture capitalist. We should be celebrating…”
Quick jumped in: “That’s his choice, not yours.”
Denton countered, “How many people need to know in a city or in a society — is it hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands that need to know before you can actually say?”
Quick replied, “But I think you being gay doesn’t matter, it doesn’t give you the right to say.”
Denton vehemently disagreed. “If it doesn’t matter, then why on earth maintain this cone of silence around a gay public figure’s private life in a way you’d never do about a straight person?” he asked.
He said not revealing a powerful person’s sexual orientation is wrong.
“I think it’s actually prejudice that one would ask certain questions of a straight public figure and a gay public figure,” he said. “When Susan Sontag died, the New York Times did not even mention her relationship with Annie Leibovitz because somehow it was going to be an infringement — it was a fact that was widely known and it was a important feature of her life, for us, as journalists, to pretend that didn’t exist is kind of shameful.”
In his open letter, Denton challenged Thiel to participate in a public debate.
At the conclusion of the segment, co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin offered CNBC as the venue.
“We will make an invitation right now,” said Sorkin. “Peter Theil, who is hopefully watching this as we speak, would be great to actually have that debate right here.”