- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2020

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow won a legal victory Friday in a defamation lawsuit brought against her by the parent company of conservative television network One America News, or OAN.

A federal court judge in San Diego dismissed Herring Network’s suit, finding that Ms. Maddow did not defame OAN when she described the network on TV as “paid Russian propaganda.”

The host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” made the remark that sparked the suit last year while covering an article published by The Daily Beast that detailed how a reporter for OAN was working for the network while simultaneously getting paid to write for Sputnik, an outlet owned by the Russian government.

Referring to OAN on her show afterward, Ms. Maddow said that “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

Lawyers for Herring subsequently filed a $10 million lawsuit in federal court against Ms. Maddow, MSNBC and the network’s parent companies, suing them for defamation over comments they alleged to be “false and malicious libel.”

U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant disagreed and granted the defendant’s motion to strike the lawsuit, however.

“The context of Maddow’s statement shows reasonable viewers would consider the contested statement to be her opinion. A reasonable viewer would not actually think OAN is paid Russian propaganda, instead, he or she would follow the facts of the Daily Beast article; that OAN and Sputnik share a reporter and both pay this reporter to write articles. Anything beyond this is Maddow’s opinion or her exaggeration of the facts,” the judge decided.

“In sum, when the total context surrounding Maddow’s comment is considered, the Court finds that the context weighs towards a finding that the statement constitutes opinion and rhetorical hyperbole protected under the First Amendment,” ruled the judge, an appointee of former President Barack Obama.

Herring Networks plans to appeal the judge’s ruling, the company said in a statement afterward. Spokespeople for MSNBC declined to comment when reached by The Washington Times.

Launched by Herring in 2013, OAN has recently gained prominence due in part to being touted by the president, who the network regularly covers in an unabashedly fawning manner. The network’s official Twitter account once described itself in 2019 as “one of his GREATEST supporters.”

More recently, OAN correspondent Chanel Rion raised eyebrows Friday upon asking White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany whether Mr. Trump “has considered pardoning President Obama for illegally wiretapping, illegally spying on citizens, and other potential crimes out there.”

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