April 20, 2023 –Media mogul Lachlan Murdoch has dropped his defamation case against Australian news site Crikey, which linked his family to the US Capitol attack.
It comes days after Fox News paid a large settlement to vote machine firm Dominion over false claims the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
Lawyers for the Fox Corporation boss on Friday said continuing the lawsuit would only benefit the Crikey site.
Crikey called it a substantial victory for public interest journalism.
Mr Murdoch launched legal action against Crikey last year over an opinion piece he said had made “false” and “scandalous” allegations – that he illegally conspired with the former US president to incite a “murderous” mob to march into Washington DC on 6 January 2021.
In a statement, his lawyer John Churchill said the mogul remained confident that a trial – which had been scheduled for October – would have gone in his favour.
“However he does not wish to further enable Crikey’s use of the court to litigate a case from another jurisdiction that has already been settled and facilitate a marketing campaign designed to attract subscribers and boost their profits,” Mr Churchill said.
Australia has been called “the defamation capital of the world” by legal experts, due to strict local laws which allow only limited defences for defamation.
Crikey – which launched in 2000 and employs 10 full-time journalists – had planned to argue its opinion piece was contextually true, and in the public interest.
In court documents outlining its defence, it argued Mr Murdoch was morally and ethically culpable for the Capitol riot because Fox News, under his control and management, knowingly promoted false claims the election was stolen.
In a statement on Friday, publisher Private Media said the Dominion settlement earlier this week proved their case. Fox News made a last-minute $787.5m (£634m) payout to the machine company, avoiding a defamation trial.
Crikey’s publisher said it had won against the media billionaire.
“We stand by our position that Lachlan Murdoch was culpable in promoting the lie of the 2020 election result.”
- After $787.5m settlement, will Fox change its ways?
But in his statement, Lachlan Murdoch’s lawyer said the case involving Dominion made no connection to the events of 6 January, and that the trial judge had ruled it “irrelevant”.
“At no point did [Dominion] ever argue that Mr Murdoch was personally responsible,” Mr Churchill’s statement said.
“Yet this is what Crikey alleged and what Crikey is attempting to argue in Australia.”
Crikey’s legal team says it intends to ask the court to order that Mr Murdoch cover the outlet’s legal costs.