A federal judge in California has ordered the parent company of far-right One America News Network to pay Rachel Maddow and MSNBC $250,000 in lawyers’ fees for a failed defamation lawsuit.
OAN’s parent Herring Networks accused Maddow in a 2019 suit of defaming the operation by discussing a report that an OAN journalist was also a contributor to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news outlet. Maddow said that OAN “literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Herring demanded $10 million in damages.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant struck down Herring’s case last May, ruling then that there was “no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation based on Maddow’s statement.” On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Goddard determined the costs Herring must now pay.
Attorneys for Maddow and MSNBC had challenged the defamation suit under the state’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation law. The law is aimed at discouraging suits that “chill the valid exercise of constitutional rights,” and entitles defendants to be reimbursed for costs with a favorable ruling.
Herring Networks President Charles Herring told the website Law & Crime in a statement that the company will appeal the costs.
OAN could soon have its own defamation troubles.
Last week, the network repeatedly aired a bizarre, two-hour conspiracy video created by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. The video featured Lindell’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and that the electronic voting system companies Dominion and Smartmatic were somehow involved. Lindell has been permanently suspended from Twitter for lying about the election.
OAN attached a lengthy disclaimer at the start of the video, saying it was “opinion” and not endorsed by the network. It also said the claims “are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts.”
“‘Nice try’ by OAN, but it definitely does not relieve them of liability,” Dominion attorney Thomas Clare said in a statement to Law & Crime. “To the contrary, we warned them specifically and in writing that they would be broadcasting false and defamatory statements of fact if they broadcast the program, and they made the affirmative decision to disregarded [sic] that warning and broadcast it anyway.”
Dominion has already filed a $1.3 billion defamation suit against Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for pushing the same fact-free claims.
Smartmatic last week filed a $2.7 billion defamation suit against the Fox News Corporation and Fox personalities Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro. The suit accused Fox of promoting blatant election lies that damaged the company and allegedly contributed to the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol last month.
Fox has called the suit “meritless.”
However, a day after the suit, Fox Business canceled Dobbs’ long-running program “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and reportedly doesn’t plan to use him on another show.
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