They were complete asholes. They had no need to release that sex tape. They harmed someone because they wanted money and attention. If they didnt want to get sued they should not have released a private sex tape. They were the ones in the wrong. Hogan was getting what he deserved.
In posting the sex video of Hulk Hogan, Gawker put itself in the position of potentially being sued by Hogan. Posting the video was an invasion of Hogan's privacy, and the news website should be held accountable for it's actions. While Hogan is responsible for what he did, the media are also responsible for their responses in publishing stories about Hogan's actions.
Gawker was responsible for the Hulk Hogan lawsuit. They invaded his privacy by publishing a sex video. He sued to protect his rights and teach Gawker and others a lesson that you cannot go too far. Gawker made the decision to publish the video, knowing it was private in an effort to boost sales.
In breaching the privacy of Professional Wrestler Hulk Hogan, Gawker are almost solely responsible for the resulting lawsuit. There is next to no argument that publishing the existence of, and articles about, his alleged sex tape has any benefit to the public or is anything but a gross breach of privacy.
Peopl at Gawker may have played a part in the Hogan lawsuit, but the entire organizaion is not responsible. Secondly there were other contributing factors. This does not mean that the courts will not decide to hold them liable. It is a complicated legal matter and will not go away easily.