A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed against Rachel Maddow, finding she did not defame One America News when she said it was “Russian propaganda.” Herring Networks, the parent company of OAN, claimed that Maddow had defamed the company in July 2019, when she discussed a Daily Beast article reporting that an OAN contributor was also on the payroll of Sputnik, a Kremlin-backed news site.
Maddow said OAN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Herring Networks alleged that she made a false statement, in that OAN is not paid by the Russian government.
In dismissing the suit on Friday, U.S. Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled that Maddow was giving her opinion based on an accurate summation of the article.
“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,” Bashant wrote. “Anything beyond this is Maddow’s opinion or her exaggeration of the facts.”
The judge ruled that a “reasonable viewer” would take Maddow’s statement to be her opinion, given the tone of her commentary.
“Maddow had inserted her own colorful commentary into and throughout the segment, laughing, expressing her dismay (i.e., saying ‘I mean, what?’) and calling the segment a ‘sparkly story’ and one we must ‘take in stride.’ For her to exaggerate the facts and call OAN Russian propaganda was consistent with her tone up to that point, and the Court finds a reasonable viewer would not take the statement as factual given this context,” Bashant wrote.
The judge also said that 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 wrote.
Amnon Siegel, an attorney for OAN’s owner, Herring Networks, told TheWrap it was “entirely probable” that a reasonable viewer would understand Maddow’s comments to be a statement of fact and that he intends to file an appeal.