Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has a message for the titans of Silicon Valley who bristle at scrutiny from the press: Lighten up.
"A Silicon Valley billionaire is 1,000 times more powerful than the average congressman but subject to a fraction of the scrutiny," Denton, a last-minute addition to Recode's annual Code Conference, said Thursday in an interview with Recode editor Kara Swisher, according to TechCrunch. "People want to know what the powerful are doing. They can't expect [to be able] to hide in the shadows."
Gawker is on the hook for $140 million in damages after pro wrestling star Hulk Hogan sued the gossip blog for publishing his sex tape. Hogan's lawsuit was recently revealed to have been bankrolled by venture capitalist Peter Thiel. The billionaire investor has a grudge against Gawker stemming from a 2007 post on Gawker blog Valleywag proclaiming Thiel was gay, as well as the blog's ongoing criticism of various elites in the tech industry.
You might think that the venture capitalists and other tech moguls in the audience Thursday would have had some questions of their own for Denton. If they did, they didn't feel like sharing them publicly, according to Twitter and a live blog of the talk.
Are all the VCs in the Recode audience scared to ask Denton a question or what-- Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) June 2, 2016
"I hope we get to see an actual tech executive or VC ask Denton a question," wrote Recode reporter Noah Kulwin on the live blog.
"CNN's Brian Stelter asks second question. C'mon, VCs! Get up to the mic," added Recode reporter Mark Bergen. The live blog ends shortly after Bergen's comment, with no VCs asking questions.
The controversy over Thiel's campaign to destroy Gawker has been a running theme in interviews with tech industry luminaries at the conference this year.
Amazon CEO (and owner of The Washington Post)Jeff Bezos said at the conference he believed that billionaires need to have thick skin about the criticism lobbed against them and should not go after media companies. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the move by Thiel--an early Facebook investor and a current member of its board--was not an issue because Thiel did not use Facebook resources.
While venture capitalists were apparently too shy to put themselves out there in front of an audience Thursday with their questions or views on the Thiel-Gawker feud, the VC community has not been entirely silent as the story has unfolded. Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, for example, stated his support for Thiel on Twitter recently.