Seven has win in defamation case over Markle interview


A California-based photographer has failed to knock out Seven Network's defences as he sues for defamation over a Sunrise interview with Meghan Markle's father.

Jeff Blaylock-Rayner has sued Seven in the Federal Court over the live interview with Thomas Markle on September 15, 2021 about his estranged relationship with his daughter, the Duchess of Sussex.

In the interview, Mr Markle spoke from Rosarito, Mexico about how he was unable to see his grandchildren and had received no response after sending Ms Markle a bouquet of flowers on her 40th birthday.

Mr Blaylock-Rayner claims the broadcast defamed him after Mr Markle said he had been "set up" to take staged paparazzi photographs to derail his daughter's wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.

The report was defamatory because it claimed he was a dishonest management consultant who conned Mr Markle to disrupt the royal wedding, Mr Blaylock-Rayner said in court pleadings.

The interview also falsely claimed he had conspired with Harvey Weinstein by taking compromising pictures of the convicted rapist's victims to prevent them from suing, he said.

Seven has denied the imputations were conveyed but said that, if they were, claims Mr Blaylock-Rayner was a dishonest photographer who conned Mr Markle were true.

The media firm has pleaded a separate defence of contextual truth, saying that a number of other imputations, including that Mr Blaylock-Rayner was a dishonourable conman who engaged in dishonest conduct including portraying Weinstein's victims in a bad light were true.

In Seven's defence, the paparazzo's photo agency is accused of conspiring to obtain salacious information about actress Rose McGowan who accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of raping her.

The agency is also accused of selling photographs and information that falsely claimed Richard Simmons was transitioning to become a woman and of providing images to New Idea falsely claiming to be of Patrick McDermott, the missing former partner of Olivia Newton John.

Seven has also pleaded a defence of honest opinion.

On Tuesday, Mr Blaylock-Rayner failed in his attempt to strike out the contextual truth defence.

He argued that Seven's defence was only able to support allegations that his company Coleman Rayner was engaged by others in an attempt to exculpate Weinstein.

Justice Stewart Anderson found Seven had put Mr Blaylock-Rayner on notice of its case through a clear defence and that the interview with Mr Markle contained the kinds of imputations the media firm claimed it did.

"I consider that it is at least reasonably arguable that the general tenor of the Interview, as conveyed to the ordinary viewer, is that the applicant's business dealings involve deception and dishonesty," the judge said.

Mr Blaylock-Rayner was ordered to pay Seven's legal costs.