Geoffrey Rush has successfully applied to temporarily gag details of the defense arguments of News Corp’s Australian tabloid The Daily Telegraph in the defamation suit he brought against the newspaper over articles published in late 2017. The Telegraph article, since removed, alleged that Rush had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” during a production of King Lear for the Sydney Theatre Company.
The Oscar-winning actor’s suit claimed the newspaper depicted him as a pervert and sexual predator and that the false allegations have not only distressed his family and colleagues but have damaged his career prospects.
In a case-management hearing in the Federal Court of Australia on Thursday, Rush’s barrister, Richard McHugh said the Telegraph‘s defense was “hopeless” and “dead in the water,” according to local media reports.
But News Corp’s lawyer, Lyndelle Barnett, told the court the newspaper had the information it had not published that backed its defense case. McHugh argued that information should not be made public, as it contains allegations beyond those published in the Telegraph that could further harm Rush’s reputation. Justice Michael Wigney ordered that information remain confidential until the next hearing on February 19, at which time it might be amended.
Barnett also argued that the articles didn’t make any allegations that Rush engaged in inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature. She said an issue at trial would be whether the articles did carry such imputations.
McHugh said the Telegraph was only claiming a defense of truth regarding some of the articles’ imputations and they were “very much the lower case imputations,” which didn’t concern sexual misconduct. He argued the stories were not reasonable and that they “clearly” contained a “sexual dimension.”
“The use of [the] headline ‘leer’ obviously has a sexual connotation to it and the way it is photographed … makes it look like he’s been caught in some way,” McHugh said on Thursday, The Guardian reported.
“How anyone could describe the headline ‘King Leer’ as a fair way of reporting an unsubstantiated complaint like that is not a serious argument that can be put.”
McHugh added that because the stories remain online and continue to defame Rush, the defamation claim should be resolved quickly. “These articles are grossly defamatory. … This is something that needs to be dealt with promptly,” he said.