Tag: murdoch media
Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Lachlan Murdoch Suing Tiny Australian News Site Over 'Defamation'

Sydney (AFP) - A high-stakes defamation battle between News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and small Australian news outlet Crikey will go to trial beginning March 27 in Sydney.

Rupert Murdoch's eldest son -- who is also chief executive of Fox News parent Fox Corporation -- is suing Crikey over an opinion piece that linked his family's media empire to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The media scion's lawyers claimed their client was defamed over a dozen times in the article, which accused "the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators" of being "unindicted co-conspirators" in the Capitol riot.

On Friday, Murdoch's barrister -- top defamation litigator Sue Chrysanthou -- pushed in the preliminary hearing for the earliest possible trial date, arguing Crikey had been "directing ridicule and hatred" towards her client.

Crikey was "publicly claiming martyrdom", she told the largely administrative case management hearing, pointing to the outlet running billboard advertisements about the case and fundraising online for its defense.

In the past month, Crikey's GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly S$333,000, and garnered support from two former Australian Prime Ministers, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.

"Lachlan Murdoch owns boats that are worth more than Crikey," Turnbull commented alongside his $3,400 donation.

A Very Public Fight

The legal scuffle over the opinion piece burst into international headlines last month, when Crikey ran an advertisement in The New York Times daring Murdoch to sue.

The often pugilistic website said it welcomed the opportunity to "test this important issue of freedom of public interest journalism in a courtroom".

Murdoch filed his lawsuit the next day.

The tussle pits an upstart website, with subscriber numbers in the low tens of thousands, against one of the world's largest media empires.

Defamation expert David Rolph from the University of Sydney told AFP that Murdoch's case could be the first test of recent attempts to reform Australia's notoriously tough defamation laws.

Australia has gained a reputation as "the defamation capital of the world" after a slew of lawsuits launched by high-profile figures, including actors and politicians.

Crikey's defense, filed with the Federal Court Tuesday, denied it defamed Murdoch and flagged it would lean on two new defenses created by the reforms.

"One is a serious harm threshold... the plaintiff now has to prove that they not only suffered some harm to reputation, but that it was serious harm to reputation," Rolph explained.

Crikey will also seek to argue that the opinion piece, by writer Bernard Keane, was in the public interest.

"I suppose the difficulty here is that defense is entirely untested. This will be a test case of that," Rolph said.

'Fundamental Public Importance'

In a statement issued Thursday, Crikey chief executive Will Hayward said his company was fighting the case because "there is an issue of fundamental public importance at stake".

"We think it is important in an open, well-functioning society that the rich and powerful can be critiqued."

While Murdoch has stayed quiet since launching the case, his statement of claim accused Crikey of using the legal saga to drive subscriptions.

He has asked the court to permanently ban Crikey from publishing anything suggesting he "illegally conspired with Donald Trump" around the events of January 6.

The case will be heard by Justice Wigney, who has overseen several closely-watched defamation trials -- including actor Geoffrey Rush's successful suit against another Australian media outlet.

Wigney said Friday that before the trial begins, he would seek to have the parties enter mediation where "cool commercial minds may prevail".

Embracing Trump's Big Lie May Cost Murdoch Billions In Libel Lawsuits

Embracing Trump's Big Lie May Cost Murdoch Billions In Libel Lawsuits

Rupert Murdoch for years has enjoyed a Trump-like ability to avoid responsibility for the avalanche of lies he promotes. That all may be changing thanks to a pair of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits surrounding Trump’s Big Lie campaign — Murdoch appears powerless to stop the looming legal reckoning.

This week, Justice David Cohen of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued a stinging rebuke of Fox News. Denying the network’s attempt to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, the election technology company that Fox smeared as part of Trump’s Big Lie offensive following the 2020 campaign, Cohen waved off Murdoch’s attorneys.

“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in his 61-page opinion. The judge repeatedly signaled that the lawsuit can proceed because there’s a reasonable chance that a jury would find Fox guilty of defamation.

The finding comes just three months after a judge in Delaware issued an identical ruling in another defamation lawsuit against Fox News, this one seeking $1.6 billion in damages. That one was brought by Dominion Voting Systems, which claimed Murdoch’s network smeared the election software company by casting it as a central villain in the GOP’s “rigged” charade.

“Fox possessed countervailing evidence of election fraud from the Department of Justice, election experts, and Dominion at the time it had been making its statements,” the judge wrote. “The fact that, despite this evidence, Fox continued to publish its allegations against Dominion, suggests Fox knew the allegations were probably false.”

For years, Fox News has gotten away with blatantly lying and slandering people, most often Democrats, and have paid almost no price for it. The reason Smartmatic and Dominion are having success in court is because they are businesses, not individuals, and they’re not “public figures.” If they were, it would be extremely difficult, under U.S. legal precedent, to prove they were defamed. They are both easily able to document how their brands have been damaged, and the amount of business they have lost, thanks to Fox smears.

What’s so damning for Murdoch’s legal team is that the facts of the recent Smartmatic case are not in dispute. That’s because Fox News defamed the company in plain view, repeatedly, on national television, alleging the company’s software switched California votes in the 2016 election, switched votes in Michigan in 2020, and did the same thing in overseas elections, among many wild and false allegations.

Because the facts are not in question, the best Murdoch’s lawyers could do in court was claim that the voting lies that aired almost nonstop did not constitute defamation because there’s no proof they were aired out of malice. Instead, Fox was just covering a big story and including lots of voices.

“When a sitting President and his surrogates claim an election was rigged, the public has a right to know what they are claiming, full stop,” Murdoch lawyers argued.

The judge rejected that defense, without reservation. “This Court finds that plaintiffs have pleaded facts sufficient to allow a jury to infer that Fox News acted with actual malice, since it conceivably had a “high degree of awareness of falsity” or “serious doubts as to the truth” of the statements made.” He added, “Since Fox News allowed allegedly defamatory statements about [Smartmatic] to be repeated on its network, a jury may therefore find that it acted with intent or reckless disregard of the truth.”

The Smartmatic lawsuit can now proceed to discovery, which means it’s likely Murdoch will try to settle, in part because Smartmatic wants access to emails from Murdoch to his top executives to confirm the likelihood they knew the “rigged” allegations were false.

In 2020, Fox News agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staff member, after the network had repeatedly hyped a false claim that the young staffer, Seth Rich, was involved in leaking D.N.C. emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Russian hacked the emails.)

The settlement came just before key hosts Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity were set to be deposed. Reaching an out-of-court agreement with Smartmatic will cost Murdoch a fortune considering the strength of the company’s case. Then double that with the Dominion lawsuit.

The irony is that in the days right after the 2020 election, Fox News initially resisted echoing Trump’s wild claims about a stolen election.

When Kayleigh McEnany held a White House press conference to double down on allegations of fraud, illegal voting, and a rigged election, Fox News host Neil Cavuto cut away from the event: “Whoa, whoa, whoa – I just think we have to be very clear. She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this."

That right-wing void was quickly filled by players like NewsMax and OAN. The Trump sycophants rushed in and eagerly became the home of “rigged” propaganda. As their audience mushroomed, Fox took note. Refusing to let itself be outflanked on the fringe-right, the network embraced the Big Lie.

Now Murdoch’s going to pay a very high price.

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Behind 'Critical Race' Hysteria, Right-Wing Dark Money And Murdoch Minions

Behind 'Critical Race' Hysteria, Right-Wing Dark Money And Murdoch Minions

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A recently released IRS filing for the right-wing activist group Parents Defending Education (PDE), which was founded to promote the ongoing scare campaign against the supposed teaching of “critical race theory” in schools, reveals the symbiotic relationship between the right-wing media echo chamber and conservative political activists stoking a cultural panic.

The group’s president, Nicki Neily, has appeared on Fox News as part of the network’s dishonest coverage of efforts by school board officials and the FBI to respond to threats and harassment. But Neily is not just a parent defending education, as she has a long history of managing right-wing organizations funded by the Koch brothers and Bradley Foundation networks.

Among the list of directors of PDE is Karol Markowicz, a columnist at Fox’s corporate cousin the New York Post. Markowicz has publicly disclosed her involvement with PDE on her Twitter account, but she and the Murdoch media outlets have not been so upfront during education-related stories.

For example, Markowicz wrote columns in the New York Post ostensibly related to the Virginia gubernatorial election to promote PDE's political agenda, such as piece on October 31 titled “There’s nothing fake about parents’ outrage in America’s culture war,” as well as a November 14 column headlined “Now that school parents are finally being taken seriously, here’s what’s got to change.” Neither piece contained any disclaimer about her leadership role with PDE.

Markowicz also appeared on the November 10 edition of America’s Newsroom. In a segment about critical race theory, the network’s purported “straight news” program identified her as a Post columnist but not as one of the leaders of a right-wing activist group pushing an agenda for public schools. During the appearance, Markowicz falsely claimed that “Democrats have spent a week calling parents racist” for identifying supposed “problems with their schools,” while the segment also ran b-roll images featuring various anti-CRT content.

From the November 10, 2021 edition of America's Newsroom

Markowicz has appeared on Fox News weekday programming at least 31 times in 2021, according to Media Matters' internal guest database, during which she has often railed against policy choices made by public schools including COVID-19 public health responses as well as instructional content.

Fox has also promoted another figure from PDE, former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani. Nomani appeared on Fox & Friends on the morning of the Virginia elections last month, as part of the network’s specially curated panels of concerned parents in the state who are often Republican activists. The chyron identified her as a parent, a former Journal columnist, and as part of PDE. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt also remarked that Nomani had helped start the group — which made this piece of Fox opinion programming more honest than the “straight news” segment a week later.

From the November 2, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

Another director of PDE is Edward Blum who has a long association with right-wing funding networks that have backed his challenges to civil rights laws. These challenges include a successful case in 2013 in which the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key protections of the Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, PDE introduces its mission statement in its 1023 filing, a document required for tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) organization:

Parents Defending Education (PDE) is a national membership nonprofit organization formed for the purpose of defending human and civil rights secured by law and open to all parents of K-12 students, education faculty and administrators, and members of the public who share a common concern about preserving student's civil rights. Specifically, PDE is formed for the purpose of defending and protecting students' rights to freedom of speech and due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and ensuring that students are not subject to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or sex, as guaranteed by federal and state law.

These statements might seem somewhat ironic, given the actual political fruits of the anti-CRT panic. Thus far, the overall effort has been based on attacks against diversity in education, opposition to the inclusion of transgender students, efforts to ban books, and even moves to promote a both-sides narrative about the Holocaust. In fact, the whole project is a political campaign against decades of civil rights progress.

And indeed, PDE’s claims to be “defending human and civil rights” are somewhat questionable. One of its actions this year was to complain about a Massachusetts school district’s emotional support meetings for Asian-American students and other students of color, following the high-profile killing of six Asian women in Atlanta and other racist violence over the past year. Neily alleged that such meetings for Asian-American students amounted to “racial segregation” against white students. (The school district said in a statement that white students were not excluded, and several did in fact attend, though it also added that language in the event invitation was “imperfectly stated.”)

Rupert Murdoch

How Australia Is Trying To Cure Its Murdoch Cancer

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Imagine if the toxic nature of Rupert Murdoch media's lies and bullying became so overpowering in America that a bipartisan movement sprang up against it. Imagine if former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush came together to demand a Congressional inquiry into Fox News and the danger Murdoch poses to our democracy.

That's what recently happened in Australia, when former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull — occupying different parts of the political spectrum — joined forces to denounce the Murdoch media cancer that's eating the country. They're urging the government to take steps to diversify media ownership and to break up the dangerous coalition that now exists between right-wing politicians and the Murdoch press, which serves as an unaccountable, but extremely powerful, entity in Australian politics.

Parliament hearings were held after Rudd's petition to establish a royal commission into media diversity became Australia's largest-ever e-petition, and the country's third largest petition of any kind.

Rudd, a progressive, has labelled Murdoch's' empire a "cancer" on the country, while the center-right Turnbull branded it "an absolute threat to our democracy." Both men were targeted by the Murdoch media machine when they were in power. Turnbull actually pointed to the destruction Murdoch has done to Australia's "most important ally," the United States, and specifically the Fox News-backed January 6 insurrection, and warned Australia was headed for the same type of democratic calamity. (We'll never know how many thousands of people Fox News killed during the pandemic by spreading lies to its mostly elderly audience about the virus, and then the vaccine.)

In Australia, Murdoch media's relentless attack on climate change has already fed sweeping natural disasters, most notably the epic bushfires in 2019 and 2020, which killed dozens of people, more than a billion animals perished, and 2,000 homes were lost.

Murdoch's media concentration there is unmatched. His News Corp controls 60 percent of newspapers in Australia, the country where he was born. To get a sense of his pull Down Under, that would be as if he not only owned the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the U.S. but also the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, and used them all to pump out toxic, right-wing misinformation. In Australia, he does it for the counter-intuitively named Liberal Party. It's News Corp that effectively governs the country and makes policy by using its vast media properties to push politicians around.

News Corps also owns the country's second-biggest news website news.com.au and 24-hour channel Sky News Australia. (Murdoch might soon make Fox News available in Australia.) The country recently ranked third in the world for media concentration, behind only the state-owned media of China and Egypt.

"The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Labor Party, it is News Corporation," Rudd warned. "And it is utterly unaccountable. It is controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with our own." He added, "We are drowning in lies."

That feeling of disdain may be spreading. Last year, a News Corp finance manager sent a stinging, all-staff email as she resigned. "I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies," she wrote. She described the news reports that came out Murdoch's The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun as "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

All during Australia's Black Summer of 2019, as deadly bushfires spread, "News Corp's massive misinformation campaign defended fossil fuel interests, accused arsonists of being the major cause of the fires and repeatedly attacked individuals who advocated urgent action on climate change," Al-Jazeera reported.

Months after the Black Summer, State Environment Minister Matt Kean broke ranks with the conservative government when he delivered a speech calling for stronger action on climate change and criticized those that treat the issue as a "matter of religion" rather than science. He clearly stated that the unprecedented bushfires had been caused by climate change. Kean then became a prime Murdoch media target, especially from his largest Australian tabloid.

"The attack on him in the [Daily] Telegraph following that was bitter, vicious and personal," Turnbull testified last month. "And it was designed not only to punish him but it sends a message, and this is how it operates like a gang, like a mafia gang, it sends the message, 'If you step out of line you'll cop some of this, too.' That's the threat. So other politicians look at that and say, 'Oh gosh I don't want to go there.' That is the reality."

In the U.S., Fox News was first created to serve as an obedient megaphone for the Republican Party, loudly spreading its talking points. Over the last two decades, the network has taken a much more proactive position, often launching attack campaigns against liberals and Democrats, which the GOP eventually signed on to.

Now, as in Australia, we're seeing signs of Fox News and other Murdoch properties ascending to the role of party disciplinarian and punishing players who fall out of line. Look no further than the Murdoch media attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has emerged as a rare, intra-party Trump critic and who voted for his impeachment this year.

America and Australia remain uniquely plagued by the Murdoch cancer.

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