Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch on Friday dropped his defamation lawsuit against the publisher of Crikey, the scrappy Australian news and commentary site, after it published an article last year that called him an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the January 6 attack, his lawyer said.
Murdoch’s lawyer, John Churchill, said Murdoch remained “confident” that he could ultimately prevail in the case, which had been scheduled to go to trial later this year. But, Churchill said, Murdoch did not wish 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.”
The decision comes just days after Fox News, which is controlled by the Murdoch family, settled a defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million, in the largest publicly known defamation settlement involving a US media company. And follows another settlement last week with a Venezuelan businessman who had accused Fox News of making false claims about him and the 2020 election.
Crikey explored admitting some of the revelations from the Dominion lawsuit as evidence in its own case, a move that Murdoch’s lawyer referenced in the Thursday statement.
Private Media said the retreat was “a substantial victory for legitimate public interest journalism.”
“We stand by our position that Lachlan Murdoch was culpable in promoting the lie of the 2020 election result because he, and his father, had the power to stop the lies,” the company said in a statement. “How do we know? Because Dominion sued Fox News for promoting the lies and Fox just paid 1.17 billion [Australian dollars] to Dominion to settle the case.”
“We are proud to have exposed the hypocrisy and abuse of power of a media billionaire,” the company said. “This is a victory for free speech. We won.”
The legal dispute centers on a 2022 Crikey story that carried the headline, “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator.”
After the article was published, Murdoch demanded the story be removed and the outlet apologize. Crikey did temporarily take down the story but declined to issue an apology. That did not satisfy Murdoch.
When Murdoch and Crikey failed to reach a resolution, the outlet reposted the story and published the legal threats it had received from Murdoch’s camp, calling them the “Lachlan Murdoch Letters.” The outlet further took out advertisements daring Murdoch to sue.
Murdoch followed through on the dare, filing a lawsuit against Crikey publisher Private Media.
Crikey and Private Media said throughout the legal process that they would defend themselves and were confident in their case.
Had the case gone to trial, it would have put Murdoch in an uncomfortable position. Not only would he have been ensnared in another high-profile defamation case, his camp would have had to make effectively the opposite arguments it has made in the United States in regard to defamation law.