Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, is being sued for more than $10 million for saying that an American conservative television network is “paid Russian propaganda.” The federal defamation lawsuit, which also names Comcast, MSNBC, and NBCUniversal Media as defendants, was filed by One America News (OAN) in the Southern District of California in San Diego.
The lawsuit accuses Maddow of making the claim in retaliation for OANN president Charles Herring making an “anti-competitive censorship” claim against Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company. Herring made the accusation in an email to a Comcast executive after Comcast refused to carry the network as part of its cable programming. The suit contends that Comcast’s refusal is because OAN “counters the liberal politics of Comcast’s own news channel, MSNBC.”
Roughly a week after the email was sent, Maddow opened her MSNBC show on July 22 with a story that ran in the Daily Beast regarding an OAN employee who also worked for Sputnik News. Kristian Rouz was born in the Ukraine and started writing for state-owned Russian news outlet Sputnik News in 2014. A statement from Rouz included in the lawsuit said that he wrote some 1,300 articles over the past 4 ½ years for Sputnik as a freelancer, getting paid $40 per article.
During the segment, Maddow commented, “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” She continued, “Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” In the lawsuit, the network claims that Maddow’s comments were “utterly and completely false.”
The lawsuit states, “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.” It claims that Rouz was not a staff employee for Sputnik News and his work there had nothing to do with his work for OAN. The statement from Rouz said, “I have never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information.”