Quaden Bayles, the young indigenous boy whose video of him being bullied at school went viral, is suing controversial News Corp columnist Miranda Devine for defamation over tweets suggesting the video was a scam.
Quaden’s mother Yarraka has filed Federal Court proceedings on her son’s behalf, and is also suing Devine and News Corp in her own right.
Back in February a video shot by his mother 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.
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 (pictured below) wrote: “That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims. Over to @dailytelegraph.”
One person responded to Devine’s tweet saying thanks for “sharing and finding out the truth” and “I just can’t grasp how truly evil this is”.
To which Devine responded: “And coaching the kid to say those things that no nine year old would say.”
According to reports on Nine’s The Sydney Morning Herald, the Bayles have engaged Sydney barrister Sue Chrysanthou and law firm Centennial Lawyers for their case.
Documents obtained by the Herald say the tweets defame Quaden suggesting he “dishonestly acted out being distressed in a video to obtain money from donors” and “dishonestly pretended to have been the victim of bullying, thereby hurting genuine victims of bullying”.
The documents also say Yarraka was also defamed because the tweets suggest she posted the video “knowing it falsely depicted him as being distressed, to get donations” and “dishonestly coached her son to pretend to be distressed to get donations”.
The family is seeking damages, including aggravated damages, and an injunction to restrain similar publications.
Devine published the tweets on her own personal Twitter account and it’s unclear how and if News Corp will be implicated in the case. Devine later tweeted she was “wholly sympathetic to Quaden” and there had been a “disinformation campaign about my Quaden Bayles tweets”.
The latest case is yet another expensive legal blow for News Corp.
Back in May, the former lead singer of the Australian rock band Silverchair, Daniel Johns, successfully sued News’ The Sunday Telegraph for $470,000 after it wrongly reported the 40-year-old was a regular at an inner-Sydney brothel and sex dungeon called The Kastle. It was later revealed that Johns had never actually visited the venue.
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