Defamation Showdown: Sir Elton John v. Rupert Murdoch (Sorta)

Elton John Defamation
Elton John works hard to protect his reputation, and according to reports, the UK-based performer’s latest face-saving mission is a defamation lawsuit against The Times of London (a Rupert Murdoch production). What has Elton’s keys out of tune? Well, Mr. John feels the paper unfairly linked him to an accountant allegedly associated with an organization known for its tax “restructuring” acumen.

Sir Elton John Wasn’t Happy About Some Tax Inuendos

The article with witch Sir Elton took offense was an expose on “the secrets of tax avoiders,” published on June 21st of this year, and the reporter identified Patrick McKenna as the celebrated singer’s former accountant. The singer was aghast (aghast I tell you!). Apparently, in Elton’s opinion, being linked with McKenna – in even the most tertiary of ways – was the same as saying that Elton John avoided taxes.

The Newspaper Clarifies Its Position

The next day, The Times published a clarification. It read:

“We have been asked to make clear that the film finance partnerships arranged by Ingenious Media, whose CEO is Patrick McKenna, do not offer schemes of this type and they have not been involved in moving money offshore to avoid tax.”

On the same day, the paper also published a retraction saying that McKenna had never been Sir Elton’s accountant.

Sir Elton Didn’t Seem To Accept The Paper’s Apology

Regardless, Mr. John feels The Time’s attempts at mollification were “wholly inadequate.” His lawyer, William McCormick, explained that the “allegations are particularly damaging to the claimant’s reputation in the sphere of charity fundraising.” McCormick further argued that since the stories were prominently placed, the “severe damage to [Elton John’s] reputation” was compounded – not to mention the “personal distress and embarrassment” he suffered over the incident.

At the moment (and for some time), defamation standards in the UK favor the plaintiff more so than they do in the United States, because the UK standard amounts to “the sense of insult and injury.” As such, the country has earned the reputation for being the “libel tourism capitol of the world.” [2016 Update: Several years ago, the Brits shed the moniker as they enacted new defamation standards].


Interested in international law? Check out our International defamation law database. In need of an international defamation law attorney, contact Aaron Kelly of Kelly / Warner Law.