The Australian Daily Telegraph, a News Corp.-owned paper, defamed actor Geoffrey Rush with two 2017 front-page articles alleging sexual harassment against him, Federal Court of Australia judge Michael Wigney ruled this week. The Telegraph must pay him $850,000 Australian and next month, possible even more after another costs ruling, the Associated Press noted.
The Telegraph‘s coverage reported on allegations against Rush’s behavior during a production of King Lear. The Telegraph headlined one story, “King Leer.” Rush sued over the articles, calling the claims “Slurs, innuendo and hyperbole,” as iMediaEthics reported at the time. Shortly after Rush sued the Telegraph over the reporting, an arts website in Australia called the Daily Review apologized for its reporting on the Telegraph‘s story.
Rush’s lawyer told iMediaEthics “There is no further comment coming from Mr Rush at this stage. We’re letting the judgement do the talking at this stage.”
In a statement sent to iMediaEthics,The Daily Telegraph editor, Ben English said:
“We are disappointed with Justice Wigney’s findings, in particular his dismissal of actor Eryn Jean Norvill’s evidence. We disagree with his criticisms of her and she has our full support. We will now review the judgment.”
Wigney called the case “sad and unfortunate” and found that the Telegraph didn’t prove “that the articles were substantially true as required by Australian defamation law,” according to the New York Times. Wigney said the anonymously-sourced articles were “a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind.”
Wigney also said the accuser was “inconsistent” and “prone to exaggeration and embellishment,” the BBC noted.
Update 4/12/2019 8:12 a.m: Updated with response from Rush’s lawyer.