Lachlan Murdoch Sues Australian News Site Over Jan. 6 Opinion Column

The Fox Corp. CEO is suing media outlet Crikey for defamation

Lachlan Murdoch Sues Crikey
(Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch is suing Australian media outlet Crikey for defamation in connection to an opinion column that suggested that the Murdoch family played a role in the January 6 Capitol riots.

Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch, filed a statement of claim against Crikey parent company Private Media on Tuesday in Australia. Murdoch attorney John Churchill argues that Crikey’s story promotes “scandalous allegations of criminal conduct and conspiracy” and assertions that are “false and calculated to harm Mr. Murdoch,” per The New York Times.

Australia recently imposed new defamation standards that require plaintiffs to prove a publication caused “serious harm” to their reputations while defendants can argue the published pieces are protected by public interest.

The piece in question, penned by politics editor Bernard Keane, ran June 29 with the headline, “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unidentified co-conspirator.”

Keane concluded his piece by writing, “If Trump ends up in the dock for a variety of crimes committed as president, as he should be, not all his co-conspirators will be there with him. Nixon was famously the ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in Watergate. The Murdochs and their slew of poisonous Fox News commentators are the unindicted co-conspirators of this continuing crisis.”

Churchill initially claimed the article was defamatory in his first communication to Crikey. The outlet then removed the story and deleted social media posts promoting it, but did not issue an apology. On Monday, the outlet republished the article.

Eric Beecher, chairman of Crikey parent company Private Media, has argued that the story references Rupert Murdoch, not Lachlan.

“The article is not dissimilar to thousands of stories published in the U.S. media about the complicity of Fox News in the Trump presidency and January 6 riots — many of those stories far more accusatory than ours,” Beecher wrote. “Indeed, Lachlan Murdoch described the role of Fox News after the 2020 presidential election as “the loyal opposition … that’s what our job is now with the Biden administration.”

Beecher argued that as a news organization, Crikey is meant to cover issues that potentially affect and/or inform the public.

“We didn’t start this senseless altercation with Lachlan Murdoch,” Beecher wrote. “We may not be as big, rich, powerful or important as him, but we have one common interest: we’re a news company that believes in publishing, not suppressing, public interest journalism.”