Nolte: Actor Geoffrey Rush Wins $600,000 Against Media in #MeToo Defamation Case

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 18: Actor Geoffrey Rush attends the premiere of Disney's 'Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' at Dolby Theatre on May 18, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
Rich Fury/Getty

Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush won a major judgment that could eventually be worth millions against an Australian newspaper.

In 2017, at the height of the #MeToo moral panic, Australia’s Daily Telegraph published two articles accusing Rush of various #MeToo crimes against rising Australian stage actress Eryn Jean Norvill. She played Cordelia in a production of the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015 production of King Lear, which starred Rush.

The Sydney tabloid daily described Rush as a “pervert” and “sexual predator” towards Norvill.

Rush immediately denied the charges and filed suit against the paper and its reporter, Jonathon Moran, for defamation and damages. According to Rush’s lawyer, the story devastated the married actor’s career. “He may never work again,” he told the media.

In his scathing judgment, Judge Michael Wigney came out swinging against the newspaper, Moran, and Norvill. After admitting she was an “intelligent, articulate and confident witness who was endeavouring to give an honest recollection,” he wrote of Norvill that: [emphasis added throughout]

[T]here are a number of aspects to the evidence which raise significant issues about her credibility as a witness and the reliability of the evidence she gave concerning the disputed events. Those issues generally relate to the consistency or inconsistency of her version or account of the relevant events over time, and the consistency or inconsistency of her evidence with more contemporaneous statements or objective indications of the nature of her relationship with Mr Rush at the relevant time. There were also some indications in Ms Norvill’s evidence that she was a witness who was, at times, prone to embellishment or exaggeration.

Ms Norvill’s evidence concerning Mr Rush’s conduct, particularly during the rehearsals, was generally inconsistent with the contemporaneous statements that Ms Norvill made to journalists about what it was like to work alongside Mr Rush in King Lear. Ms Norvill’s explanation for the statements she made to the journalists is considered in detail later.

Ms Norvill’s evidence about Mr Rush’s conduct was inconsistent in important respects with the account which she appears to have given to Ms Crowe on 5 April 2016, only a few months after the conclusion of the performances of King Lear.

Of the newspaper, the judge wrote:

I accept Mr Rush’s contention that the conduct of Nationwide and Mr Moran in publishing the 30 November 2017 articles was, in all the circumstances, unjustified and improper because they were reckless as to the truth or falsity of the defamatory imputations conveyed by the articles and had failed to make adequate inquiries before publication.

This was, in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of journalism. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was calculated to damage. Nationwide and Mr Moran’s conduct in publishing the 30 November 2017 articles was in all the circumstances both improper and unjustifiable.

Norvill claimed she had witnesses who would confirm Rush’s misdeeds, but those witnesses not only failed to corroborate her allegations, they contradicted them. Norvill was the newspaper’s key witness during the trial.

Wigney initially awarded Rush A$850,000  (about US$600,000) in damages and said the actor is entitled to more. That amount, which will likely be based on lost wages and reputational damage, will be decided at a later date.

Rush’s suit is for $25 million.

Naturally, the hideous and corrupt media are not horrified over what happened to Rush, are not writing cautionary tales about how awful it is that one of their own smeared a 67-year-old man’s world reputation. Nope, the media are only worried about how these lawsuits make it harder for them to do this to other people:

According to Media Watch host Paul Barry, the Telegraph’s case couldn’t have gone any worse.

Among the losers from it, he said, were future victims of sexual misbehaviour who may want to make a complaint to a news outlet.

“[They are] going to be severely discouraged from doing so because the consequences are so extreme,” he said.

Justice Wigney’s criticism of Ms Norvill sent “a very bad sign”, Barry added.

“It will mean that any reporting of those stories will be much more difficult than it was.”

Well, in a sane world it would be more difficult to publish a story that basically annihilates an entire human being and there should be serious consequences when someone gets it wrong.

Although this victorious lawsuit against the fake news media was won in Australia, let’s hope it portends good things for Nick Sandmann, the 16-year-old boy smeared as a racist by the American media. Unlike Oscar-winner Rush, Sandmann is not a public figure and he’s a minor. Nevertheless, the American media attacked this innocent boy as a bullying bigot, even after video proved he had done nothing wrong, that he himself was the victim of a menacing American Indian activist and a group of racist black nationalists.

Sandmann is currently suing CNN and the Washington Post for around $250 million each and deserves every cent of it.

 Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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