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Lachlan Murdoch drops defamation lawsuit against Australian news website


Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Corp., attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Fox Corp (FOXA.O) CEO Lachlan Murdoch dropped a defamation lawsuit against an Australian news site over an opinion piece he said accused him of complicity in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying the defendant was trying to generate publicity.

Murdoch’s lawyer in Australia said his client was confident he would have won the suit against online publisher Private Media and its site Crikey, but wanted to stop it from re-airing claims from a separate U.S. lawsuit involving Fox and the events of Jan. 6, which Fox paid $785.5 million to settle three days earlier.

“Mr Murdoch … 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,” the lawyer, John Churchill, said in a statement.

A lawyer for Private Media, Michael Bradley, said Murdoch had discontinued his Federal Court claim without warning and that Murdoch would pay Private Media’s costs. He declined to say how much those costs were.

“It’s complete vindication of their stand on the principle of press freedom,” Bradley said in an email, referring to Crikey and its employees.

The decision is the second high-profile defamation trial involving the Murdoch family to be aborted in relation to Fox’s coverage of the 2020 U.S. election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack in Washington by supporters of former president Donald Trump who repeatedly claimed without evidence that his loss to President Joe Biden was fraudulent.

Fox and its top-rated cable channel Fox News on April 18 settled a defamation lawsuit by ballot machine operator Dominion Voting Systems, on what was to be the first day of a trial where Lachlan’s father, Fox Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, had been expected to testify.

In the Australian lawsuit, which was scheduled to go to trial in October, Lachlan Murdoch had accused Private Media and four employees of damaging his reputation in a June 29, 2022, opinion piece that described the Murdochs as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the effort by Trump supporters to overturn his election loss.