One America News Network, one of the rivals to Fox News for right-leaning viewers, filed a defamation claim against Comcast, MSNBC and Rachel Maddow on Monday, over Maddow’s claim that the conservative channel “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego (read it here) claims that the defendants retaliated against One America because its president, Charles Herring, called out MSNBC’s parent company. Comcast, “for their anti-competitive censorship” in refusing to carry the conservative channel. In an email to Comcast’s president of content acquisition, Gregory Rigdon, Herring had sought carriage on Comcast’s cable platforms and stated his concern that the cable giant “opposes including another conservative counter channel to counter MSNBC,” according to the lawsuit.
A week later, Maddow opened her show by telling her audience that OANN “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda,” according to the lawsuit.
“Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government,” Maddow said in the July 22 segment.
Skip Miller, a partner at Miller Barondess who represents OANN, said in a statement: “One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego. They are as American as apple pie. They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government. This is a false and malicious libel, and they’re going to answer for it in a court of law.”
Maddow made the claim after the Daily Beast ran a story by Kevin Poulsen reporting that one of One America’s on-air reporters, Kristian Brunovich Rouz, also was on the payroll for Sputnik, the Kremlin news outlet. One America then demanded a retraction.
But One America said in the lawsuit that “Rouz has never been a staff employee of Sputnik News. He worked as a freelancer for Sputnik News and his work there had no relation to his work for OAN. Rouz submitted articles to Sputnik on his own and would receive approximately $40 if the articles were accepted.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $10 million in damages.
A spokeswoman for MSNBC did not immediately return a request for comment.