Controversial News Corp columnist Miranda Devine has tweeted an apology to Quaden Bayles, saying comments she’d made about the nine-year-old Queensland boy were “hurtful and untrue”.
Back in February a video shot by Bayles’ mother, Yarraka, attracted global attention after it showed Quaden – who has achondroplasia dwarfism – highly distressed from schoolyard bullying and ended with the nine-year-old saying “he wanted to die right now”.
Following the release of the confronting video, an online conspiracy theory wrongly inferred that Quaden was actually an adult actor and the whole thing had been a scam to raise money.
Devine, who is currently on secondment to News’ The New York Post, retweeted a post that said Quaden was an “Australian actor whose mom … posted a fake sobbing video of him” and “the MSM (mainstream media) and Hollywood fell for it and got him $300K+ in donations”.
Above her retweet, Devine wrote: “That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims. Over to @dailytelegraph.”
In August, the Bayles announced they were suing Devine – and her employer News Corp – in the Federal Cout for defamation.
Up until now Devine has remained silent on the matter, however, over the weekend tweeted: “In February this year I posted some comments on my personal Twitter account about Quaden Bayles and his mother Yarraka.
“I now know those comments were hurtful and untrue. I sincerely apologise to the Bayles for those comments.”
The matter has already been heard in court with Miranda Devine not represented. News’ lawyers argued that the tweets were on Devine’s own personal Twitter account and therefore they were not responsible for the columnist’s quotes.
Devine later tweeted she was “wholly sympathetic to Quaden” and there had been a “disinformation campaign about my Quaden Bayles tweets”.
In a judgement from late Ausgust determining preliminary issues, Justice Katzmann said the Bayles had a prima facie case (in that it’s true until proven otherwise) against Devine.
But Justice Katzmann knocked back an attempt to have the court rule it was not practicable to serve US-based Devine personally – a bureaucratic process that can take months.
Court documents also revealed that Quaden has been diagnosed with critical respiratory failure and is currently in the care of the Paediatric Palliative Care Unit at Queensland Children’s Hospital.
The court also heard that Quaden and his mother had received death threats following a “false and malicious internet conspiracy” and, because of it, he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, the lawyer said.
The parties return to court at a later date.
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