Lachlan Murdoch drops his defamation lawsuit against an Australian news outlet after Fox agreed to pay $787 million to settle Dominion suit

April 21, 2023, 3:29 PM UTC
Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Corp., arrives during the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 11, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fox Corp. Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch dropped a defamation lawsuit he filed last August against an Australian news site over a piece it published about him and the effort to overturn the 2020 US presidential election.

The notice of discontinuance of the suit against Private Media, which publishes the news site Crikey, comes three days after Fox agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a suit alleging it defamed Dominion Voting Systems Inc. by airing claims the company rigged the election. It was filed on Friday with the Federal Court of Australia.

In his suit, Murdoch claimed Crikey defamed him in the article, which it published amid the US Congress’s investigation of the January 2021 riot at the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. The article, labeled Analysis, said Murdoch and others at Fox were effectively complicit in that effort.

“Mr. Murdoch remains confident that the court would ultimately find in his favor,” Murdoch’s lawyer John Churchill said in a statement. “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.” 

In a 35-page April 11 filing with the court, Private Media cited evidence from the Dominion case it said shows Murdoch’s motives in allegedly failing to stop Fox News from promoting the claim that the presidential election was rigged against Trump. The reason was that Murdoch “considered it to be for the financial and commercial benefit of Fox Corporation, for Fox News Channel to promote the lie,” according to the filing.

Read the filing here

“This is a substantial victory for legitimate public interest journalism,” Private Media CEO Will Hayward said in a statement Thursday, adding that Fox’s settlement with Dominion on Tuesday shows the publication was right.

Dominion sued Fox in 2021, alleging it “gave life” to an unfounded conspiracy theory that the voting machine company helped steal the election from Trump. Fox argued it was reporting on issues of national importance, that a sitting president’s claims of election fraud are newsworthy and that its broadcasts were protected as free speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

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