Rebel Wilson wins defamation trial against Bauer Media


Rebel Wilson has won her defamation case against magazine publisher Bauer Media over a series of articles the Hollywood actress claimed damaged her career by depicting her as a serial liar.

In an at-times bizarre Victorian Supreme Court trial, the 37-year-old Australian sued over eight articles which appeared in Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, OK Magazine and New Weekly in 2015.

Rebel Wilson sued Bauer Media successfully for defamation. The judge is now considering the damages Bauer caused Wilson’s career.

The articles said Wilson had publicly lied about her age, real name and upbringing, and alleged she had added a “touch of Hollywood” to her backstory.

She returned to Melbourne from Los Angeles to give evidence at the three-week trial in which she made jokes, rapped an Academy Award acceptance speech she claims to have hallucinated years earlier, and broke down in tears several times.

Outside the court, Wilson said it had been a long, hard fight but she felt she had to take a stand.

“I had to stand up to a bully, a huge media organisation, Bauer Media Group, who maliciously took me down in 2015 with a series of grubby and completely false articles,” she said.

“Far too often I feel the tabloid magazines and the journalists who work for them don’t abide by professional ethics. Far too often I feel their conduct can only be described as disgusting and disgraceful.

Rebel Wilson celebrates winning her defamation case against Bauer Media’s articles calling her a liar. The jury agreed with Wilson not the magazine publisher.

“I’m glad, very glad, that the jury has agreed with me and by their unanimous overwhelming verdict they have sent a very, very clear message.”

Justice John Dixon is now tasked with assessing the amount of damages to award the actress.

“The reason I’m here is not for damages. It’s to clear my name,” Wilson said.

“To me it’s not about the number. To me, I was hoping the jury would do the right thing and send a message to these tabloids and they’ve done that.

“So for me it’s over in my mind in that respect.”

Wilson to rebuild career

A number of fans were on hand to support Wilson, who took selfies with them afterwards.

Wilson got stuck in traffic on the way to the court and almost missed the verdict.

“I’ve been waiting four weeks for this, I need to get here and unfortunately I think school was coming out at that time and we were stuck in traffic,” she said.

“But I kind of bolted in as soon as I got here and luckily at least heard one lot of all of the questions being answered.”

She said she hoped to start to rebuild her career and has plans to do a movie in New York with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth.

“When I’ve been feeling really down about the stress of this court case, I’ve just been thinking about pashing Liam and how good that’s going to be,” she joked.

In a statement, Bauer Media said it would consider its options following the verdict. The company said it had no further comment at this time.

The jury was shown childhood photos of the actress in a bid to prove her stories were true, including a young Wilson competing as a junior handler at dog shows, in a cage with a lion and in a South African hospital recovering from malaria.

The actress told the trial the articles were a “malicious, deliberate take-down” published to coincide with the release of her biggest movie role to date and designed to sell as many copies as possible.

She alleged they resulted in her being sacked from DreamWorks animated feature films Trolls and Kung Fu Panda 3 for being “too divisive”, and she subsequently had to beg to work for free.

“After month after month, that all of a sudden doors that used to be open were shut and I basically had to beg to get back in the door … it became apparent that … [the articles] did a tremendous amount of damage,” she told the jury.

But Bauer Media denied the articles had damaged Wilson’s reputation and argued that, in any case, they were based in fact. Wilson producing verified childhood photographs supporting every incident that had been used to label her a liar defied every claim the magazine articles claimed.

Woman’s Day journalist denies ‘hatchet job’

Woman’s Day was the first of the publisher’s magazines to allege Wilson had lied publicly about aspects of her life, including her age and real name.

Shari Nementzik has been successfully sued for defamation

One of the magazine’s former “cele-writers,” Shari Nementzik, denied doing a “hatchet job” on the actress’s reputation.

She said she had based the article on a source who had commented on the magazine’s website in 2012, claiming she had gone to high school with the actress and “what a lier [sic] she has become!!”

The identity of the source, who was paid $2,000, was not revealed to the court.

Nementzik told the court she did not think her source was “completely unreliable”, and denied publishing information she knew was false.

She also denied breaching the code of ethics by leaving out relevant facts and not giving Wilson an opportunity to respond.

Wilson told the jury she believed the source was a disgruntled former classmate who was jealous of her success.

But Nementzik denied the article was a mean story from a source “with an axe to grind”.  The jury believed Rebel Wilson and did not believe Shari Nementzik or her “paid” source as revealed when the jury found in Rebel Wilson’s favor fully vindicating her.

The magazines published several articles claiming the actress was a liar. The actress produced photographs that clearly identified that the magazine published unsubstantiated accounts about Rebel Wilson.  Producing photographs to support everything she had said about herself was a very welcome moment by the jury because the photographs cemented that what Wilson had said about her childhood was absolutely true.

Wilson and her relatives were able to collect childhood photographs showing Wilson receiving multiple awards at dog shows for presenting the family dogs. There were photographs showing her petting a lion in her backyard which her family verified they indeed held in a cage on their property and she produced her legal documentation proving both her age and her real name. There is nothing a jury finds more satisfying to prove a case than actual documentation.

Neither Shari Nementzik nor Bauer publishing could stand behind the “journalist shield” position because the source turned out to be a jealous childhood person that resented Rebel Wilson’s success. However outrageous Rebel’s stories about her childhood were, every one of them was proven true.

Bauer media did not produce the author of the comments that had written to Nementzik. Even without producing the quip’s author, the magazine lost the case when Rebel Wilson more than proved herself.

The jury is the last word and they absolutely believed her. Nementzik’s career will be marred by this loss because she will find it difficult (as will any publication that hires her) very difficult to obtain Professional Liability Insurance.

Several other entertainers have found their careers in a tailspin when they go out of their way to injure someone or defame them as in the recent US case where Kathy Griffin chose to create a decapitation photo of President Donald Trump where she was photographed holding what appeared to be his decapitated head.  She’s gained more notoriety than ever over the photograph but lost just about every job she had booked for the next few years since advertisers don’t want to have anything to do with her or any media organization that features her as a result.

 

 

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