Published12 hours ago
A small Australian news website has challenged media mogul Lachlan Murdoch to sue it over an article linking the family name to the US Capitol attack.
The opinion piece for Crikey, published in June, does not name Lachlan Murdoch specifically, but he argues it has defamed him.
His lawyers say it contains “false” and “scandalous” allegations Mr Murdoch was involved in criminal conduct.
But Crikey bosses say they stand by the piece as “public interest journalism”.
The article, published amid congressional hearings into last year’s 6 January riots, was headlined: “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator.”
It did not specify anywhere in the article which member or members of the Murdoch family it was referring to, but it mentions Fox News, a subsidiary of Fox Corporation which Lachlan Murdoch heads.
Crikey- which launched in 2000 and employs 10 full-time journalists – says the report only mentions the Murdoch name twice, and is clearly about News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch, not his son.
In an open letter published as an advert in the New York Times and the Canberra Times, Crikey’s chiefs say they want to defend the allegations in court.
The chief executive of Private Media – which owns Crikey – told the BBC they are “extremely confident” in their case.
“We’ve decided to stand up to Lachlan Murdoch not only because we believe our reporting is fair comment, but because we wish to stand on the side of free speech in the face of almost unlimited power and resources,” Will Hayward said.
A representative for Lachlan Murdoch – chief executive of Fox Corporation – declined to comment.
But letters from his lawyers, published by Crikey, argue the publication of the article was “malicious” and “manifestly indefensible”.
They say Mr Murdoch was identified in the article, and it implied he illegally conspired with Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 presidential election result and to incite a mob with “murderous intent” to march on the Capitol.
In response to the initial complaint, Crikey initially agreed to remove the piece from its website and publish an editorial statement clarifying its position.
But after Mr Murdoch lawyers refused to accept those terms, it republished the piece.
This isn’t the first time Crikey has been threatened with legal action by Mr Murdoch.
The site was forced to apologise and pay Mr Murdoch legal costs after it published false allegations about him last year.
And in September 2020, Crikey was also forced to apologise for comparing Mr Murdoch to an organised crime boss.