The owner of right-leaning cable news channel One America News Network (OANN) has filed a defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow and others claiming that the 46-year-old liberal commentator “maliciously and recklessly” smeared the network as a Russian state propaganda outlet.
In a press release obtained by Law&Crime, attorneys for OANN’s owner Herrring Networks, Inc. said they filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Maddow, Comcast Corporation, NBC Universal and MSNBC in a California federal court.
The lawsuit tracks a series of longstanding grievances between OANN and Comcast.
According to the press release, the complaint alleges that Comcast refused to carry the right-wing network because OANN “counters the liberal politics of its own channel, MSNBC.” One week after that, OANN’s founder Charles Herring sent an open email to Comcast deriding their alleged “anti-competitive censorship.”
Maddow apparently responded in turn, defending her own network’s owners by blasting OANN and telling her own audience the right-wing network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” As you can see, the plaintiff claimed that counsel for NBC Universal said in a letter that by “literally” Maddow meant “not being literally true.” This was apparently part of the response to an OANN retraction demand.
A copy of NBC Universal counsel Amy Wolf’s letter shows that Maddow’s comments were made in the context of discussing a Daily Beast report on OANN reporter Kristian Rouz. That report was headlined, “Trump’s New Favorite Channel Employs Kremlin-Paid Journalist.”
Another exhibit attached to the lawsuit is a statement from Rouz on his work for Sputnik News, which is funded by the Russian government.
OANN’s lawsuit asserts that Maddow–as well as the other named corporate defendants–knew the liberal host’s statement was false and that Maddow acted both maliciously and recklessly when she made it. This language mirrors the legal definition of defamation under California statutory and case law.
The lawsuit further alleges that Maddow’s xenophobic broadside against OANN was intended to damage the conservative network’s business and reputation. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Maddow targeted the competing network for retaliation over their allegations that Comcast was acting in an anti-competitive manner.
Attorney Skip Miller is a partner with Miller Barondess, LLP in Los Angeles.
In comments obtained by Law&Crime, Miller reiterated the anti-factual nature of Maddow’s Russian jab at the right-wing network.
“One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego,” Miller said. “They are as American as apple pie. They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government. This is a false and malicious libel, and they’re going to answer for it in a court of law.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Monday morning. Law&Crime reached out to Miller for a copy of the complaint. You can now read it in full below.
Law&Crime also reached out to Maddow and MSNBC for comment, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
Editor’s note: this story was updated after publication to add a copy of the lawsuit and to note some of the details contained within it.
[image via Joe Kohen/Getty Images for The New Yorker]