Fox’s Lachlan Murdoch files defamation lawsuit against major Australian news outlet
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News and Fox Business, has been the defendant in a major defamation lawsuit — the one filed by Dominion Voting Systems in the United States. But now, it is Fox Corp.’s Lachlan Murdoch who is suing for defamation in a separate case that was filed in Australia on Tuesday, August 23. Lachlan Murdoch is Rupert Murdoch’s son.
Although the civil lawsuits are totally separate and are in different countries — one in the U.S., one in Australia — both of them have a connection to the United States’ 2020 presidential election. Fox Corp. has been fighting a well-known defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which has sued the company for promoting the bogus conspiracy theory that Dominion’s voting equipment was used to steal the election from former President Donald Trump; Dominion has filed defamation lawsuits against Fox News competitors Newsmax TV and One America News (OAN) for the same reason. So far, Fox News’ attorneys have been unsuccessful in getting Dominion’s defamation lawsuit thrown out.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Lachlan Murdoch is the one suing someone for defamation, and his target is Private Media, the parent company of Australian news outlet Crikey.
The New York Times’ Yan Zhuang, in an article published on August 23, reports that Lachlan Murdoch filed a defamation lawsuit against Crikey’s parent company “a day after the outlet challenged him to make good on his threats to sue over a column that claimed links between the Murdoch family and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.” The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Australia.
“The move came after Crikey issued its challenge to Lachlan Murdoch in an open letter and in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, saying it wanted to make the dispute a test case for Australia’s strict defamation laws,” Zhuang reports. “The opinion article at the center of the conflict, which lamented the ‘sorry state of U.S. politics and the Jan. 6 insurrection,’ carried the headline: ‘Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator.’ It went on to say that the Murdochs and ‘poisonous’ Fox News commentators had contributed to the assault on American democracy.”
In the U.S., the standard for proving defamation in a civil case was laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1964 ruling New York Times v. Sullivan. According to the Warren Court’s Sullivan standard, the plaintiff in a defamation case must prove “actual malice” — which is what Dominion will have to prove in order to win its lawsuits against Fox Corp., Newsmax or OAN.
But the lawsuit against Crikey’s parent company is in Australia, which has its own laws. In Australia, Lachlan Murdoch’s attorneys allege that Crikey’s article contained “scandalous allegations of criminal conduct and conspiracy” and claims that are “false and calculated to harm Mr. Murdoch.”
Crikey Editor-In-Chief Peter Fray, in an official statement on Lachlan Murdoch’s defamation lawsuit, said, “Crikey stands by its story, and we look forward to defending our independent public interest journalism in court against the considerable resources of Lachlan Murdoch. We welcome the chance to test what an honest, open and public debate actually means for free speech in Australia.”
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