Fringe right-wing network One America News lost the appeal of its defamation suit against MSNBC and star host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday, with a panel upholding a previous federal court ruling against OAN that required them to pay $250,000 of the defendants’ legal fees.
OAN, owned by Herring Networks, initially sued Maddow for $10 million in July 2019 after the MSNBC star said on her show that the Trump-boosting network is “paid Russian propaganda,” calling her remarks “malicious and utterly false.”
If the stories broadcast by the Trump-endorsed One America News Network sometimes look like outtakes from a Kremlin trolling operation, there may be a reason. One of the on-air reporters at the 24-hour network is a Russian national on the payroll of the Kremlin’s official propaganda outlet, Sputnik.
Kristian Brunovich Rouz, originally from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been living in San Diego, where OAN is based, since August 2017, reporting on U.S. politics for the 24-hour news channel. For all of that time, he’s been simultaneously writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire that played a role in Russia’s 2016 election-interference operation, according to an
Other smears target billionaire financier George Soros, a longtime Kremlin bête noire. In one segment, Rouz amplified a thoroughly debunked claim that Soros collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, when the Jewish philanthropist was 14 years old. Another Rouz story accused Soros of secretly funding migrant caravans.
Kremlin propaganda sometimes sneaks into Rouz’s segments on unrelated matters, dropped in as offhand background information. A segment on the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets references “allegations of the White Helmets’ involvement in military activities, executions, and numerous war atrocities,” but doesn’t disclose that those “allegations” were hoaxes that originated with Vladimir Putin and his proxies.
Maddow’s comments, however, were based on a Daily Beast story detailing how OAN employs Kristian Rouz, a reporter who simultaneously worked for Kremlin-owned media outlet Sputnik, a well-known purveyor of Russian-backed propaganda. MSNBC’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued Maddow’s remarks were “protected opinion based on disclosed facts,” adding that her commentary “specifically noted” the OAN reporter was paid by Sputnik.
In May 2020, a judge threw out OAN’s defamation suit, with U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant ruling that there was no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation based on Maddow’s statement. The judge also noted that OAN never alleged that the facts in the Daily Beast story are defamatory and didn’t dispute any of the underlying facts, which Maddow presented on her program.
After MSNBC and Maddow later asked for the right-wing channel to pay $350,000 in legal fees, the court permanently dismissed the case this past February and awarded MSNBC and Maddow a total of $247,667.50. Read more..