OANN Sued Rachel Maddow, Now Has To Write Her A Check

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow looks on.
Gettyimages | Frederick M. Brown
US Politics

The right-leaning One America News Network (OANN) has established itself as a more conservative alternative to Fox News, largely thanks to former President Donald Trump, who promoted it during the 2020 presidential election.

Liberals have repeatedly accused OANN of deploying propaganda on behalf of Trump and Republicans.

In 2019, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow went one step further than most of her colleagues and ran a segment saying that OANN "really literally is paid Russian propaganda."

Maddow offered no evidence for her claims, so OANN sued her for defamation. Here's what happened next.

OANN Vs. Maddow

As legal expert Eric Goldman pointed out on his blog, the lawsuit was rejected, with the judge noting that no "reasonable viewer" would conclude that Maddow reports facts on her show.

Rather, the judge said, Maddow is clearly just opining on the news.

"A reasonable viewer would be able to differentiate between Maddow’s commentary and the actual news she is reporting….Because Maddow discloses all relevant facts and employs colorful, hyperbolic language, we conclude that the specific context of the statement does not render it an assertion of fact."

Defamation-Free Zone

According to Goldman, the court's ruling shows that Maddow's show -- and other television shows -- is essentially a "defamation-free zone," which means that hosts and pundits can say pretty much whatever they want without ever facing legal consequences.

Fox News recently used similar legal arguments to escape liability for broadcasting misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic, he noted.

"Cable news shows occupy the bizarre space where viewers treat them as journalism relaying actual news, but the courts treat them as opinionated entertainment that viewers don’t take seriously," Goldman added.

OANN Has To Write A Check To Maddow

OANN sued Maddow and MSNBC for $10 million, but since the lawsuit was unsuccessful, the network now has to write a check to the host.

According to USA Today, MSNBC and Maddow asked for nearly $350,000 in legal fees.

The courts permanently dismissed the lawsuit and ordered OANN to pay MSNBC and Maddow nearly $250,000 in legal fees.

OANN president Charles Herring said in a statement that he was "pleased that the fees were reduced by nearly a third by the court."

Maddow Is Facing Other Lawsuits

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow delivers remarks.
Gettyimages | Frederick M. Brown

Maddow is also being sued by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California.

Nunes is also suing Maddow for defamation, because she has claimed -- without evidence -- that he works for the Russian government.

Nunes said in an interview earlier this month that Maddow should not be allowed to run "around the country, calling everybody a Russian agent."

The congressman also challenged MSNBC and Maddow to meet him in court and present evidence for their claims, or stop accusing him of being a paid agent of a hostile government and committing treason against the U.S.