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Another Silicon Valley investor has ripped in to Gawker Media — alleging the company behind "Deadspin" and "Jezebel" published a fake story.
"That publication printed lies," angel investor and Inside.com founder Jason Calacanis told CNBC's "Squawk Alley " Friday. "We know this because at one of my companies we sent them a fake story and they printed it the same day. Gawker, during that period, was paying for stolen content."
The story in question, according to Calacanis, was a 2007 leak he sent from a fake Yahoo email account, then published as, "Is Kokua the new site from Calacanis?. " The story, which was picked up by other acclaimed technology blogs, is couched with skepticism:
This may or may not be an early screenshot of Jason Calacanis' new search site. The prototype is called Kokua, and looks like a video version of About.com. It's search engine, wikipedia and podcasting directory rolled into one. Calacanis, the entrepreneur who sold Engadget and other weblogs to AOL for $25m, enjoys spreading confusion, and intrigue; but a spoof page with that in mind would be a lot of effort, even for him.
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, who then penned the post for technology blog ValleyWag, commented below the article, "Another reason to think this is fake... Jason Calacanis would have insisted on a hotter girl to illustrate the shopping channel." Calacanis said that the original story reported he going into business with Don Imus, who had just been fired.
"Jason Calacanis recently backed the venture of A.J. Daulerio, the former editor of Gawker.com who was one of the targets of Peter Thiel's legal campaign," Gawker told CNBC. "Before that, he was Gawker Media's main competitor. He has changed his tune before, according to what gets him attention and money, and no doubt will again."
(Calicanis responded: "I do think Gawker, Denton and AJ have all evolved considerably since the days in question. I am fond of much of Denton and AJ's other work, and I've learned to not judge people on only their worst moments.")
It comes at a time when Gawker has been under legal fire, embroiled in an expensive lawsuit with wrestler and entertainer Hulk Hogan. Technology entrepreneur and wealthy investor Peter Thiel revealed he was bankrolling the fight, creating a divide in the technology world.
Amazon CEO and Washington Post founder Jeff Bezos, suggested Thiel and those like him get a thicker skin, saying, "You don't want to create any kind of climate of fear or chill" when it comes to free speech, even if that speech is "ugly." But other prominent investors like Vinod Khosla and Ben Horowitz have tweeted support for Thiel.
Calacanis himself recently told the Washington Post: "If you look at most tech publications, they have major conferences as their revenue. If you hit too hard, you lose keynotes, ticket buyers, and support in the tech space."
Calcanis said he opposes a world where billionaires bully the press. But he said Gawker was "100 percent wrong" to publish a 2007 article outing Thiel as gay — oft cited as the fuel of Thiel's fight.
"It's based on something that happened 10 years ago, at a time when the country was very different," Calacanis said. "Gay men were very fearful of being outed and having their career choices limited. And at that time, Gawker printed lies about people, and was very destructive in outing people and trying to destroy their careers."
Calacanis said that Gawker no longer "prints lies" because they have "retreated based on being sued." To be sure, Thiel has not denied Gawker's report on his sexuality. Still, Calacanis, who was last tagged by Gawker in 2014, called for better fact-checking at the site.
"Peter Thiel, if he files another lawsuit or two like this, that is going to be disgusting and something we don't want to see," Calacanis said. "But somebody had to beat back the false journalism that was happening."
Gawker editors yesterday issued a statement defending the newsworthiness of their work.
"If our lengthy published record of news, essays, investigations, satire, and criticism is 'not journalism,' as the refrain goes, then why has so much of it been cited, amplified, and followed by our more respectable establishment peers?," Gawker's editors wrote. "If we aim for nothing but cruelty, or nothing but clicks, why have our writers drawn so many of the finest (or most well-remunerated) writers in the rest of the business to engage with our work? Journalism is as journalism does."