California-based One America News Network (OAN) is airing MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s documentary-style disinformation program alleging massive electoral fraud during the 2020 presidential election–for 12 hours total–as a paid advertisement.
The Lindell broadcast and so-called “report” is being run with a lengthy disclaimer that aims to avoid liability for further amplifying unsupported claims made against voting machine vendors and U.S. election officials.
But it looks like a defamation lawsuit is incoming regardless–one that could prove financially ruinous for the upstart conservative outlet.
According to Media Matters‘ Senior Fellow Matthew Gertz, the disclaimer is running at the top of the program and is indicative of a network with “no standards” that “is desperate for cash.”
In an email to Law&Crime, Charles Herring, the president of OAN, responded to the liberal think tank’s criticism by saying that “Media Matters’ history [of] ‘credible reporting’ speaks for itself.”
The disclaimer attempt by OAN to distance itself from the content of Lindell’s program begins this way:
Michael James Lindell has purchased the airtime for the broadcast of this program on One American News (“OAN”) network. Mr. Lindell is the sole author and executive producer of this program and is solely and exclusively responsible for its content. The topic of this broadcast is the 2020 election. OAN has undertaken its own reporting on this topic. This program is not the product of OAN’s reporting. The views, opinions and claims expressed in this program by Mr. Lindell and other guests, presenters, producers or advertisers are theirs and theirs alone and are not adopted or endorsed by OAN or its owners.
Specifically, the disclaimer takes pains to note that the right-wing network is not explicitly endorsing Lindell’s claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic were part of a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump.
“In particular, OAN does not adopt or endorse any statements or opinions in this program regarding the following entities or people: US Dominion Inc. (and any related entities); Smartmatic USA Corp.; Brian Kemp; Brad Raffensperger; or Gabriel Sterling,” the message from OAN’s legal department continues. “Further, the statements and claims expressed in this program are presented at this time as opinions only and are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts.”
“The results in the 2020 Presidential election remain disputed and questioned by millions of Americans who are entitled to hear from all sides in order to help determine what may have happened,” the disclaimer concluded.
A tweet from OAN’s account promoted Lindell’s “never-before-seen report breaking down election fraud evidence & showing how the unprecedented level of voter fraud was committed in the 2020 Presidential Election.”
Join MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for a never-before-seen report breaking down election fraud evidence & showing how the unprecedented level of voter fraud was committed in the 2020 Presidential Election.
Tune in to “Absolute Proof” with Mike Lindell on February 5th. Only on #OANN. pic.twitter.com/Qamcbpy2Ef
— One America News (@OANN) February 5, 2021
The lead attorney for one of Lindell’s targets says that disclaimer is not nearly enough to escape liability for airing the Lindell program.
Thomas Clare represents Dominion in a series of lawsuits against high-profile Trump adherents, attorneys and others who promoted those false conspiracy theories. Dominion recently put OAN on notice that their broadcasts were relevant to the company’s pending legal actions and previously warned OAN and others that defamation lawsuits are “imminent” over the continued promotion of those unsupported vote-swapping claims.
“‘Nice try’ by OAN, but it definitely does not relieve them of liability,” Clare told Law&Crime. “To the contrary, we warned them specifically and in writing that they would be broadcasting false and defamatory statements of fact if they broadcast the program, and they made the affirmative decision to disregarded that warning and broadcast it anyway.”
The attorney went on to claim that OAN was alone in their decision to air Lindell’s program–before citing a term of art specific to defamation law.
“Other outlets have refused to host it,” Clare said. “Textbook actual malice.”
Herring stressed that OAN had nothing to do with the content of the documentary.
“OAN is airing the content as paid long-form ad air time,” he told Law&Crime. “We sold the air time at fair market value. The paid content is clearly differentiated from OAN content. OAN did not assist with the production.”
He said the Lindell production is two hours long and will not be looped, but will be aired multiple times today and over the weekend.
[image via Stephen Maturen/Getty Images]
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