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Elton John loses libel suit over spoof Guardian diary piece

By | Published on Wednesday 17 December 2008

The Guardian has successfully defended itself in a libel lawsuit launched by Elton John who took offence at a spoof dairy piece featured in the paper’s Weekend magazine.

The spoof article, presented as a diary entry from John (but pretty obviously a spoof), included an extract that implied the singer’s famous annual charitable White Tie & Tiara Ball was more about partying than fundraising.

As if written by Elton, the piece called the event “preposterously lavish” and read: “Once we’ve subtracted all these costs, the leftovers go to my foundation. I call this care-o-nomics”.

John said he accepted the piece was “an attempt at humour”, but said it gave the reader the impression that he “hosts the White Tie & Tiara Ball knowing that once the costs of the ball have been covered only the small proportion of the money raised which is left over is available for Elton John Aids Foundation to distribute to good causes”. This, John points out, is untrue – over its history the event has raised £38m for charity.

But Mr Justice Tugendhat did not agree there was a case for libel because, he ruled, it was obvious the piece wasn’t really written by John, and that it was a joke article. He told the court “no reasonable reader could understand [the piece] as being written by the claimant”.

If the paper were really making claims regarding the motives for the Ball, the judge ruled, “a reasonable reader would expect so serious an allegation to be made without humour, and explicitly, in a part of the newspaper devoted to news”.