CANBERRA, Australia — Fox Corp. chief executive Lachlan Murdoch on Friday dropped his defamation lawsuit against Australian news website Crikey, citing the Fox News settlement of a U.S. court case where the network agreed to pay almost $800 million over its lies involving the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s son filed the Crikey suit last August a day after executives at Crikey’s publisher put their names to an ad in The New York Times inviting Lachlan Murdoch to sue to test the press freedom issue in court.
Murdoch’s lawsuit targeted the publisher, Private Media, its then-managing editor Peter Fray, who was also the website’s editor-in-chief, and Crikey’s political editor, Bernard Keane.
Murdoch claimed he was defamed by Keane’s column about the U.S. congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol building which Crikey published in June last year under the headlines: “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator.”
Murdoch’s lawyer John Churchill said in a statement he had filed a notice of discontinuance in Federal Court on Friday.
“Crikey has tried to introduce thousands of pages of documents from a defamation case in another jurisdiction, which has now settled,” the statement said, referring to the Fox News settlement with Dominion Voting Systems that was announced Tuesday.
“Mr. Murdoch remains confident that the court would ultimately find in his favor, 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,” Churchill said.
Crikey’s lawyer firm Marque Lawyers welcomed the backdown.
“He’ll (Lachlan Murdoch) be up for Crikey’s legal costs. We and our client are well pleased,” the firm tweeted.
The Crikey suit had been set for a three-week hearing in Sydney starting Oct. 9.
Lachlan Murdoch had alleged the Crikey article conveyed a meaning that he illegally conspired with former President Donald Trump to “incite a mob with murderous intent to march on the Capitol” to prevent the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.
In its defense, Crikey had argued Lachlan Murdoch was “morally and ethically culpable” for the attack on the Capitol “because Fox News, under his control and management, promoted and peddled Trump’s lie of the stolen election despite Lachlan Murdoch knowing it was false.”
The article did not name Lachlan Murdoch, but referred to “the Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators.”
Crikey attracts an audience of at least 175,000 unique readers a month and has at least 15,000 paid subscribers, according to court documents filed last year.