A US-based paparazzi is suing Channel 7 over an interview with Meghan Markle’s estranged father, in which he claimed that the photographer conspired to set him up and sabotage the royal wedding.
Jeff Rayner, the co-owner of photo agency Coleman-Rayner, is suing Seven for defamation in the Federal Court over an interview broadcast on the network’s breakfast program in September last year, in which Thomas Markle Snr made a series of allegations against him, including that he was associated with disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Rayner has denied the allegations.
Mr Rayner was at the center of the scandal which resulted in Thomas Markle Snr not attending his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.
In the lead up, Mr Rayner took staged photos of Mr Markle, which led to the breakdown of his relationship with his daughter.
In a transcript of the interview provided to the court, Mr Markle is quoted as saying: “I was set up by a guy named Jeff Rayner … And the whole thing was a plan to mess up the wedding and I was just part of it. ”
“Basically, they went to my oldest daughter and convinced my oldest daughter to convince me to have photographs to clean up my image, because the photographs before that were always making me look bad.”
According to a statement of claim filed with the court by Mr Rayner’s lawyers, Mr Markle added: “I regret it to this day because it was a total set up.”
According to court documents, during the interview, Mr Markle is quoted as having said he intended to sue Mr Rayner.
“If I fail in suing him, I hope to see him some day with (Harvey) Weinstein, because he was also shooting young women for Weinstein to make them look bad so they couldn’t sue him for rape,” he said.
In his statement of claim, Mr Rayner says the interview falsely portrayed him as “dishonest” and having “conned Mr Markle (by deceiving his daughter Samantha) into participating in a photographic shoot as part of a plan to disrupt the royal wedding”.
He also claims it conveyed a false imputation that he “conspired with Harvey Weinstein, a notorious rapist, to take compromising pictures of Harvey Weinstein’s victims that could be used to discourage those women from suing Harvey Weinstein”.
Mr Rayner, whose mother and extended family members live in Australia, said he suffered hurt, distress and embarrassment as a result of the interview, which caused harm to his personal and professional reputation.
Mr Rayner is also seeking aggravated damages, claiming Seven ought to have known that there was a likelihood of Mr Markle making defamatory comments and that they failed to prerecord the interview.
Sunrise hosts Natalie Barr and David Koch delivered an on-air apology the following day.
However, Mr Rayner described it as inadequate and having a “sarcastic” and “flippant” tone.
An apology was also shared on the network’s news website.
“Seven did not intend for such allegations to be broadcast and has subsequently removed them from all versions of the program,” the statement read.
“We would like to apologize to those gentlemen named by Mr Markle that the allegations went to air.”
Seven is yet to file a defense and a court date has not yet been set for the matter.
Read related topics:Meghan Markle