Elton John loses defamation case against The Guardian
A spoof column satirising gay star Sir Elton John was not defamatory, the High Court in London has ruled.
The singer had claimed the humourous article, by Marina Hyde, made fun of Sir Elton’s charity work and joked that he held events such as the White Tie Ball for self-promotion and to meet celebrities and not to raise serious funds.
In the spoof, Sir Elton recounts singing Happy Birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela, “I love you, you adorable, apartheid-fighting teddy bear.”
Sir Elton described the “A Peek At The Diary Of …” column, published on July 5th, as having a “gratuitously offensive, nasty and snide tone.”
Mr Justice Tugendhat disagreed.
At an interim judgment hearing today he said: : “the words complained of … could not be understood by a reasonable reader of the Guardian Weekend section as containing the serious allegation pleaded.”
Sir Elton, who was seeking damages and an apology, was ordered to pay costs. He may appeal the judgement.
Guardian News & Media, owners of The Guardian, had argued that the article represented a satirical piece of comment rather than a factual account and made an application to strike out the factual meaning of his claim.
Guardian News & Media said in a statement: “We’re sorry that Elton John lost his sense of humour over this article.
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“The judge – and, we suspect all readers – saw the article for what it was; a piece of mild satire. Newspapers have published satire since the 17th century in this country: the judgment is an important recognition of the right to poke the occasional bit of fun.”
The spoof in question in full:-
A peek at the diary of …Elton John
What a few days it’s been. First I sang Happy Birthday to my dear, dear friend Nelson Mandela – I like to think I’m one of the few people privileged enough to call him Madiba – at a party specially organised to provide white celebrities with a chance to be photographed cuddling him, wearing that patronisingly awestruck smile they all have. It says: “I love you, you adorable, apartheid-fighting teddy bear.”
The next night I welcomed the exact same crowd to my place for my annual White Tie & Tiaras ball. Lulu, Kelly Osbourne, Agyness Deyn, Richard Desmond, Liz Hurley, Bill Clinton – I met most of them 10 minutes ago, but we have something very special and magical in common: we’re all members of the entertainment industry. You can’t manufacture a connection like that.
Naturally, everyone could afford just to hand over the money if they gave that much of a toss about Aids research – as could the sponsors. But we like to give guests a preposterously lavish evening, because they’re the kind of people who wouldn’t turn up for anything less. They fork out small fortunes for new dresses and so on, the sponsors blow hundreds of thousands on creating what convention demands we call a “magical world”, and everyone wears immensely smug “My diamonds are by Chopard” grins in the newspapers and OK!. Once we’ve subtracted all these costs, the leftovers go to my foundation. I call this care-o-nomics.
As seen by Marina Hyde
Elton John’s most recent £3,000 a head White Tie and Tiara Ball in June raised £10 million from a celebrity auction.
Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish held the event at their £20 million home in Windsor, Berkshire to raise money for the Sir Elton John Aids Foundation.
The 600 guests included former American President Bill Clinton together with Elizabeth Hurley, Jemima Khan, Uma Thurman, Rod Stewart, Will Smith and Denzel Washington.
The auction saw a mystery bidder paying £650,000 for dinner with Mr Clinton at Gordon Ramsay’s New York restaurant.