Justice Michael Wigney has criticised a bad pun used by the Daily Telegraph in the initial story covering actor Geoffrey Rush’s alleged assault towards fellow actor Eryn Jean Norvill.
The pun in question was the headline of the story, which read “King Leer”, a move which Justice Wigney labelled an unnecessary “empahsis” on Rush’s reported behaviour.
The newspaper’s lawyer Tom Blackburn SC argued the headline and pun was “carefully constructed” and was used to hint at Rush’s denial of the events.
Justice Wigney said those who write headlines “just can’t help themselves with their bad puns”.
Adding: “Bad puns is probably putting it in mild terms.”
Wigney went on to mention the story’s accompanying headline, “Star’s Bard Behaviour” made the accusations seem like “very large puffs of smoke suggesting there’s a fire there”.
Blackburn responded: “Your Honour has to take the article as a whole”, and added Tele readers were used to this style of writing.
To which Wigney replied: “They’re used to bad puns?”
Blackburn then said: “There is nothing in there to suggest Rush had used his power or influence or authority … to do something that amounts to sexual predation,” he said.
A fortnight ago, Rush was forced to defend his use of a ‘winking emoji’ as part of the trial.
Rush allegedly sent actor Eryn Jean Norvill a message with the “tongue out” emoji, and signed the text off with “Gregarious Raunch”.
The 67-year-old actor denied the message was in any way meant to untoward, instead claiming it was a reference to a Groucho Max joke.
He said: “If there’d been a Groucho emoji, I would have punctuated with that.”
Adding: “[It] was the looniest emoji I could find. If Fozzie Bear had been there, I would have used Fozzie bear. I am a great emoji user.’’
Rush is suing both The Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation after the paper ran articles claiming Rush had harassed a female co-star.
The actor announced his intention to sue The Tele in December last year.
In late November of last year, The Tele published a cover page story under the headline “King Leer” that Rush had acted inappropriately during the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear, which ran from November 2015 to January 2016.