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Conservative television network One America News is suing Rachel Maddow for more than $10 million for saying it “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
The network filed the federal defamation suit Monday in San Diego.
In the lawsuit obtained by USA TODAY, the network claims that Maddow’s comments on her July 22 MSNBC show were “utterly and completely false.”
“OAN is wholly owned and financed by the Herrings, an American family. OAN has never been paid or received a penny from Russia or the Russian government,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states that Maddow’s comments were retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused cable television giant Comcast of censorship. The suit contends that Comcast refused to carry the channel 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.
MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow is pictured moderating a forum panel at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. (Photo: Steven Senne, AP)
“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 includes a statement from Rouz that said he wrote about 1,300 articles over the past four and a half years for Sputnik but “I have never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information.”
In a statement to the Associated Press, Skip Miller, an attorney representing OAN, called Maddow’s comments “false and malicious libel.”
“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,” he said. “This is a false and malicious libel, and they’re going to answer for it in a court of law.”
The suit names Maddow, Comcast, MSNBC and NBCUniversal Media.
The lawsuit included an Aug. 6 letter from Amy Wolf, an attorney for NBCUniversal News Group, to OAN’s attorney.
It said 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.”
The statement also refers to Maddow’s use of “literally” as a “figure of speech.”
USA TODAY has reached out to MSNBC for comment.
OAN is a small, family-owned network based in San Diego that is challenging Fox News for conservative cable and satellite TV viewers and has received favorable tweets from President Donald Trump.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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