Sir Elton John is demanding damages of £150,000 from the Guardian for a “gratuitously offensive, nasty and snide” piece written by columnist Marina Hyde.
He is already embroiled in a legal battle with his former manager, Bob Halley, after issuing a writ against him in January. The pop star has managed to get his court action against Halley, his personal assistant and manager for thirty years, made private after applying to the Royal Courts of Justice.
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But now he is suing Guardian News and Media and accuses Hyde of using a gratuitously offensive, nasty and snide tone with sneering allusions to his racist and uncaring attitudes, and is demanding damages of £150,000.
Hyde’s piece in Guardian Weekend meant that his commitment to the Elton John Aids Foundation is so insincere that he hosts the annual White Tie and Tiara Ball knowing that once costs have been covered, only a small amount is available for good causes, he says.
Her piece also meant that he uses the ball to meet celebrities and for self promotion rather than raising money for his charity and the good causes it supports, according to a High Court writ.
John says that in fact his glittering ball raised at least £10m for charity this year and that he is deeply committed to fundraising for charity. Her false allegations are particularly damaging to his reputation and are likely to discourage people from attending his charity events, the writ claims.
John’s solicitors wrote to the Guardian’s editor on 7 July, asking for the piece to be removed from the paper’s website and for the paper’s legal department to hold onto her cuttings, notes, notebooks and drafts. The paper declined to assure him it would preserve the documents to be obstructive, he says.
His letter was leaked to The Independent, which published a story headed: ‘Sir Elton calls in the lawyers as satirical piece strikes a wrong note’and Sir Elton blames the Guardian for this. The Guardian denied any leak to The Independent, the writ says.
He argues that his complaint was dismissed in a high-handed and arrogant manner and claims that the paper failed to answer questions from his solicitors, to leave the paper with as much room for future manoeuvring as possible, and to place as much doubt in his mind as possible, in the hope of dissuading him from bringing proceedings.
Although The Guardian took down the piece temporarily, it was reinstated on 15 July on the website, despite his plans to sue for libel, the writ says.
John is seeking damages and aggravated damages for libel, and an injunction banning repetition of the allegations at the centre of his claim.
The Guardian declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
In May 2006, the Daily Mail agreed to pay Sir Elton £100,000 in libel damages over false claims that he had issued an edict to guests invited to his White Tie and Tiara charity ball telling them not to speak to him unless he approached them.
And in February 2006 the pop singer accepted undisclosed libel damages from the Sunday Times after it alleged that he had acted “in a self-important, arrogant and rude manner” at his Aids Foundation’s summer ball.
John has a history of run-ins with the press. In December 1988, The Sun reached an out-of-court settlement with him, believed to be worth £1 million, over a series of stories that included false allegations that the singer had been involved with rent boys and had ordered the removal of his guard dogs’ larynxes.
In 1993, he won £300,000 in damages from the Sunday Mirror over false claims that he was suffering from bulimia. This was cut to £75,000 on appeal.