Elton John Loses Libel Case to Murdoch-Owned Newspaper

Elton John Sues Murdoch Newspaper Libel Article - P 2012

Elton John Sues Murdoch Newspaper Libel Article - P 2012

One of these days, someone will consider why the country with the world's toughest libel laws also has the most notorious tabloids. Until then, there's Elton John vs. Rupert Murdoch.

On Wednesday, the UK's high court shot down the singer's defamation lawsuit against the UK newspaper The Times, a Murdoch-owned paper over a story about a tax avoidance scheme. Cue the Murdoch tweet.

On June 21, the article in question carried the headline, "Screen Play: how movie millions are moved offshore," and mentioned Ingenious Media top executive Patrick McKenna, who was said to be John's former accountant and one of two main providers of film investment schemes in the UK. The paper also included another article that referenced John in a report about the "world of glitz and glamour that’s on the Revenue’s radar."

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John's attorneys fired off a letter to the publisher, expressing "outrage." John had employed an accounting firm where McKenna was once a partner, but said he never heard of McKenna.

The Times then ran a correction that McKenna had never been John's accountant and then a "clarification" that Ingenious Media had not been involved in tax avoidance activities.

But the small correction didn't carry the same weight as the front-page story so John sued, saying "the allegations are particularly damaging to the claimant's reputation in the sphere of charity fundraising."

UK High Court justice Michael Tugendhat isn't convinced.

"The conclusion I have reached is that the words complained of are not capable of bearing the meaning attributed to them by the claimant or any other defamatory meaning," he ruled, according to the Guardian.

Murdoch, whose UK newspapers became involved in a hacking scandal that set off a Parliamentary inquiry into press ethics and the relationship between the media and authorities, is now sounding off about a free press.

Shortly after the decision that John had not been libelled, Murdoch tweeted, "British libel laws limit freedom of expression everywhere. Hope Cameron keeps his promise of major reform, but not holding breath."

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner