Lachlan Murdoch fails at the first hurdle in his libel case against the online publisher – but part of the news site’s case was also shot down by the judge

  • Twist in defamation dispute between Lachlan Murdoch and Crikey publication
  • Both parties’ bids to remove each other’s posts failed at the hearing
  • Sued over a piece about the US House of Representatives hearings and Capitol riots



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Media mogul Lachlan Murdoch and news publication Crikey have both unsuccessfully attacked each other’s posts amid a hotly contested libel case.

Bids by media mogul Lachlan Murdoch and Australian news publication Crikey to remove each other’s posts have failed amid a bitter defamation dispute.

On Friday, Judge Michael Wigney found there was no adequate reason to reject Crikey’s public interest defence. He rejected Mr Murdoch’s claims that parts of the defense were a “furphy” and were evasive, ambiguous or prejudicial.

“Nor am I persuaded that these paragraphs taken together do not disclose a reasonable defence,” the federal court judge said.

It was ‘at least arguable’ that the facts claimed by the publication surrounding the January 6 riots in the US showed the article was written in the public interest, he said.

‘I am not convinced that the facts relied on are demonstrably irrelevant.’

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Lachlan Murdoch, pictured with wife Sarah at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, has hit his first hurdle in his defamation case against news publication Crikey

Murdoch also failed to remove other parts of the defense in redress, including allegations that he had a bad reputation as head of Fox News, an organization that engaged in ‘biased reporting’ and ‘systematic unethical practices’.

Crikey relies on statements from US Fox commentators such as Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity to support these claims.

“Our system has never been more disorganized and it has never been more vulnerable to manipulation,” Carlson said in November 2020.

Days before January 6, Pirro publicly spoke out against the ‘hypocrisy of the left’ and questioned whether Joe Biden was the legitimate president of the United States.

On Friday, Justice Wigney also dismissed Crikey’s bid to delete part of the media mogul’s response which claimed the publisher had acted in malice.

If Mr Murdoch was able to prove that the predominant purpose of the article was harm, this would defeat the public interest defence, the judge noted.

The co-chairman of News Corp and chief executive of Fox Corporation is suing Crikey over an opinion piece by political editor Bernard Keane on June 29, which was removed and then put back online on August 15.

The media mogul is suing Crikey over a political opinion piece about US House hearings of former President Donald Trump and the Capitol riots (pictured) in Washington DC in January 2021

It concerned the US House of Representatives hearings on former President Donald Trump and the Capitol riots in Washington DC on January 6, 2021.

Murdoch claims it contained defamatory allegations, including that he entered into an illegal criminal conspiracy with Mr Trump to overturn the 2020 US presidential election and incite a mob with murderous intent to march on the Capitol.

The article was titled ‘Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his uncharged co-conspirator’.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Murdoch Crikeys publisher Private Media, Keane and editor-in-chief Peter Fray.

A nine-day trial period starts on March 27.

Crikey publisher Eric Beecher wrote an open letter daring the Murdochs to take legal action against his website