Miranda Devine apologises for tweets ahead of defamation settlement

News Corp columnist Miranda Devine has issued an apology for tweets suggesting a nine-year-old Indigenous boy suffering from dwarfism faked being a bullying victim, ahead of an anticipated Federal Court defamation settlement.

Quaden Bayles, who has achondroplasia dwarfism, launched defamation proceedings against Devine in July over a series of tweets from her Twitter account in February that raised questions about whether a viral video in which he cried after being bullied at school was "a scam" to make money.

Quaden Bayles was suing Miranda Devine over comments made on Twitter.Credit:SMH

The case was brought on his behalf by his mother Yarraka, who was also suing Devine in her own right for suggesting she "coached" Quaden.

On Saturday the Daily Telegraph columnist, who is on secondment at The New York Post, 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."

News Corp subsidiary Nationwide News, the publisher of the Telegraph, was also named as a defendant to the defamation suit but had taken the extraordinary step of briefing a lawyer only to appear in court on its behalf.

Ashurst partner Robert Todd, acting solely for Nationwide News and not Devine, told the court in August the company's position was that its star columnist's tweets from an account identifying her as an employee of the company and promoting its publications were "private" and unrelated to material it published.

Barrister Sue Chrysanthou, acting for the Bayles family, told the court in August that the family's legal team had received "absolutely no response" from Devine.

"Unusually for her, she has been silent," Ms Chrysanthou told Justice Anna Katzmann.



No lawyer appeared in court on Devine's behalf in August, and lawyers for the Bayles family had applied for orders allowing legal documents to be served on her in the United States because her Australian employer did not accept service of them on her behalf.

The Federal Court file shows law firm Holding Redlich filed a notice on Thursday that it was appointed to act for Devine.

The settlement is expected to include Devine and Nationwide News, and will require the approval of the Federal Court because Quaden is a minor.

In the wake of the video, US comedian Brad Williams, who also has dwarfism, set up a GoFundMe page to fund a trip to Disneyland for Quaden and Yarraka. The family declined to take the trip.

At the centre of the defamation case was a February 21 tweet by Devine, in which she retweeted a claim from a US Twitter user that Quaden was an "Australian actor whose mom … posted a fake sobbing video of him" that reaped "$300K+ in donations".

In a comment above the retweet, Devine wrote: "That's really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims. Over to @dailytelegraph."

Another user thanked Devine for "finding out the truth", saying "I just can't grasp how truly evil this is".

Devine replied: "And coaching the kid to say those things that no nine year old would say."

The same user replied "it's a crime if it is a scam. Child abuse. How could any parent do this?"

Devine replied: "Yep. Exactly. On the case."

On February 26, Devine tweeted that she re-tweeted the initial material with "caution" and the Telegraph's subsequent story, retweeted by her, was "wholly sympathetic to Quaden".

She suggested there had been a "disinformation campaign about my Quaden Bayles tweets".

The parties return to court at a later date.

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