Publisher’s defence in case brought by News Corp co-chairman relies in part upon Dominion’s US suit against media giant
Lachlan Murdoch allowed Fox News hosts to peddle the claim that the US presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump despite knowing it was false, Crikey will argue in a defence of contextual truth in its upcoming defamation trial.
The 36-page defence, which has been filed by the Crikey publisher, Private Media, in the federal court ahead of an October trial, substantially relies upon events in the US, where Dominion brought a $1.6bn defamation suit against the media company for spreading election lies.
Crikey’s defence alleges Murdoch “closely monitored how Fox News Network handled reporting on the election”, according to his Dominion deposition, and that he was “generally aware of the allegations made by Sidney Powell on the Fox News Network at the time they were being made, which were to the effect that the 2020 US presidential election was fraudulently stolen from Mr Trump”.
The US jury trial, set to begin on 17 April, centres on whether Fox News knowingly broadcast false claims about Dominion equipment as Trump and his allies sought to overturn the 2020 election.
Justice Michael Wigney granted Crikey additional time to add the contextual truth defence on top of its already pleaded defences of public interest and qualified privilege.
The defamation proceedings against the independent Australian news site were launched last year over an article published in June that referred to the Murdoch family as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the US Capitol attack.
The expanded defence includes the recent admission by Rupert Murdoch that Fox News hosts endorsed Trump’s false claims.
“Lachlan Murdoch is morally and ethically culpable for the illegal January 6 attack because Fox News, under his control and management, promoted and peddled Trump’s lie of the stolen election despite Lachlan Murdoch knowing it was false,” the Crikey defence says.
“Lachlan Murdoch’s unethical and reprehensible conduct in allowing Fox News to promote and peddle Trump’s lie of the stolen election, despite Lachlan Murdoch knowing it was false, makes him morally and ethically culpable for the illegal January 6 attack.”
Murdoch’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, indicated in an earlier hearing she would apply to strike out the contextual truth defence, which she described as vague.
“This defence is not rational, it is not arguable, it’s a waste of everyone’s time and it serves no legitimate end in the litigation,” the barrister said.
She accused Crikey of including masses of material from the Dominion case in the Australian defamation lawsuit purely as part of its “Lachlan Murdoch campaign”, which she alleges is an attempt to raise funds and increase subscriptions on the back of the lawsuit.
Murdoch’s attempt to split the trial and have the imputations determined first was dismissed.
Murdoch has argued that he has been “gravely injured in his character, his personal reputation and his professional reputation as a business person and company director, and has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment” as a result of the Crikey article.
At the hearing earlier this month, Wigney described the litigant and the respondent as having “a scorched earth policy” in their conduct of the matter.
“And I say this with the greatest respect … there does seem to be a hint that this case is being driven more by … ego and hubris and ideology than anything else,” he said.
Source: The Guardian