Well, that backfired.
In 2019, One America News sued MSNBC and star anchor Rachel Maddow for defamation, seeking $10 million after she called the right-wing outlet “paid Russian propaganda.” She explained why: the network employed a journalist, Kristian Rouz, who was simultaneously on the payroll of Sputnik, a media outlet owned by the Kremlin.
OAN’s suit was subsequently dismissed. On Tuesday, an appeals court reaffirmed that earlier ruling and said OAN has to cover at least $247,000 of the legal bills incurred by Maddow and MSNBC.
Judge Milan D. Smith Jr ruled that the Maddow statement in question was “an obvious exaggeration, cushioned within an undisputed news story.”
“The statement could not reasonably be understood to imply an assertion of objective fact, and therefore, did not amount to defamation,” the judge wrote in his opinion.
OAN did not deny that they shared a reporter with a well-known peddler of Russian disinformation.
The Hill explains Maddow’s defense:
Ted Boutrous, who represented Maddow, NBCUniversal, MSNBC and other defendants in the case, said in an appeals hearing late last month that OAN parent company Herring Networks improperly isolated a few words of Maddow’s commentary about OAN, adding that restrictions on words “stripped out of context” would “destroy the breathing space for lively and informative debate about public issues that the First Amendment protects.”
“We can’t have speech police parsing the words they way Herring is doing,” the attorney continued. “It would really chill valuable speech.”
The Daily Beast, which Maddow cited in her report on Rouz, provides more details on OAN’s legal woes:
This is not the only bad legal news OAN has received in recent days. Dominion Voting Systems recently filed a $1.3 billion defamation suit, alleging the network has purposely peddled false claims that the company’s voting machines rigged the election against Donald Trump. The network has recently doubled down on pushing election fraud conspiracies, promoting and giving uninterrupted live coverage to the “cyber symposium” hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—who is also being sued by Dominion.