TV doctor launches online appeal to cover Arlene Foster defamation case costs

Christian Jessen claims he doesn’t have the money to pay damages and faces bankruptcy

Arlene Foster sued Dr Christian Jessen after he posted a  tweet on December 23rd, 2019, making the false allegation that Ms Foster was having an affair to his 300,000-plus followers. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Arlene Foster sued Dr Christian Jessen after he posted a tweet on December 23rd, 2019, making the false allegation that Ms Foster was having an affair to his 300,000-plus followers. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

TV presenter Dr Christian Jessen has launched an online fundraising appeal to help him pay £125,000 (€145,000) in damages to the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster after posting a defamatory tweet making unfounded claims she was having an extramarital affair.

Dr Jessen, best known for his appearances on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, claims he doesn’t have the money, and faces going bankrupt as he was “down to my last ££20,000 [€23,000]”.

At the High Court in Belfast last week, Mr Justice Gerry McAlinden accepted that the false tweet by the celebrity doctor had cut Mrs Foster “to the core”.

The ex-Democratic Unionist Party leader sued Dr Jessen after the tweet on December 23rd, 2019, making the false allegation of an affair to his 300,000-plus followers.

The tweet remained online until Dr Jessen deleted it on January 7th, 2020.

Over the weekend, Dr Jessen launched an online fundraising appeal on the GoFundMe website, to help pay the “substantial” libel damages and Mrs Foster’s legal costs.

As of Sunday, he had raised £4,655 (€5,419) of a £150,000 (€175,000) target.

“I am considering an appeal and I am seeking to raise funds to help me to fight what is a most unfair situation,” he said on the website.

Speaking to the Sunday Life newspaper, Dr Jessen said he was “down to my last £20,000 and that won’t last long”.

“I don’t have the money, so if the crowdfunding doesn’t work, I may have to declare myself bankrupt,” he said.

‘Just harsh’

Dr Jessen said he deeply regretted the false tweet and was “also sorry for causing her any hurt”, but claimed the damages awarded against him were “just harsh in comparison to other judgments.”

In his ruling, Mr Justice McAlinden described the tweet as “grossly defamatory”.

“It is an outrageous libel concerning an individual of considerable standing, attacking her integrity at the most fundamental level, and it involves the trashing in a very public fashion of the relationship that Mrs Foster holds dearest in her life,” he said.

“It affected core aspects of her life, namely her relationship with her husband, her deep Christian faith, it called into question her fitness and suitability to occupy the office of First Minister at a time when delicate negotiations were continuing on the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Giving evidence last month, Mrs Foster told the court she was left humiliated by the unfounded rumour of an affair with a close protection officer which “trashed” her 25-year marriage.

Speaking outside the High Court, her solicitor Paul Tweed described the damages as “a record award for a tweet” and a “watershed for all women in public life who have been subjected to similar attacks on social media”.