San Diego

Judge Dismisses SD-Based One America's Defamation Suit Against Rachel Maddow, MSNBC

One America News Network filed the federal defamation suit in San Diego. The suit named Maddow, Comcast, MSNBC and NBCUniversal Media

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC

A federal judge on Friday dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit filed by One America News Network's owners that accused Rachel Maddow and MSNBC of defamation.

The conservative television network sued Maddow for more than $10 million in September for calling it "paid Russian propaganda."

One America News Network's owners, Herring Networks, filed the federal defamation suit in San Diego.

Friday's ruling stated, in part: "[The] Court finds that the contested statement is an opinion that cannot serve as the basis for a defamation claim. Plaintiff has not shown a probability of succeeding on its defamation claims, thus, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Special Motion to Strike…. Because there is no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation based on Maddow’s statement, the complaint is dismissed with prejudice. After Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees is resolved, the Court will instruct the Clerk to close this case."

Read Friday's court ruling below:

"Considering the totality of the circumstances — including the general context of the statements, the specific context of the statements, and the statements’ susceptibility of being proven true or false — a reasonable factfinder could only conclude that the statement was one of opinion not fact," U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant summarized in her ruling.

In addition, the ruling added that because the court had granted the motion, the defendants could file a motion to recover attorney's fees and costs.

The small, family owned One America News Network, which is based in San Diego, is challenging Fox News for conservative cable and satellite TV viewers and has received favorable tweets from President Donald Trump.

The lawsuit contended that Maddow's comment on her July 22, 2019, MSNBC show was retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused the cable television giant Comcast of censorship. The suit also contended that Comcast refused to carry OAN because it "counters the liberal politics of Comcast's own news channel, MSNBC."

A week after Herring sent an email to a Comcast executive, Maddow opened her MSNBC show by referring to a report in the Daily Beast that said an OAN employee also worked for Sputnik News, which is linked to the Russian government.

"In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda," Maddow said on "The Rachel Maddow Show."

"Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government," Maddow said.

In the lawsuit, OAN said Kristian Rouz was a freelancer for Sputnik News, not a staff employee, and his work there had nothing to do with his work for OAN.

The lawsuit included a statement from Rouz that said he wrote some 1,300 articles over the previous 4.5 years for Sputnik but "I have never written propaganda, disinformation or unverified information."

"One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego. They are as American as apple pie. They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government," Skip Miller, an attorney representing OAN, said in a statement last year. "This is a false and malicious libel, and they're going to answer for it in a court of law."

The suit named Maddow, Comcast, MSNBC and NBCUniversal Media.

The lawsuit included an Aug. 6, 2019, letter from Amy Wolf, an attorney for NBCUniversal News Group, to OAN's attorney, that stated that OAN "publishes content collected or created by a journalist who is also paid by the Russian government for writing over a thousand articles. Ms. Maddow's recounting of this arrangement is substantially true and therefore not actionable."

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