Reaffirming the decision by a San Diego-based U.S. District Court last year to toss out the conservative outlet’s $10 million defamation lawsuit against Maddow and MSNBC, a trio of appeal court judges has advised the Robert Herring Sr.-founded OAN to chill the hell out.
“Turning to the merits, the panel held that Maddow’s statement was well within the bounds of what qualified as protected speech under the First Amendment,” said the summary of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s opinion on Tuesday of Maddow’s July 2019 quip that OAN was “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
Maddow, who is MSNBC’s top-rated host and one of the most watched on all of cable news, actually was referencing a Daily Beast piece in the segment that got OAN so hot and bothered — and mocked, now and then.
“No reasonable viewer could conclude that Maddow implied an assertion of objective fact,” the opinion penned by Judge Milan D. Smith added (read it here) of the suit OAN filed in the fall of 2020 with great flurry. “The judgment of the district court is therefore affirmed.”
Having sought this appeal and now having struck out twice, the swinging-above-its-weight OAN has been ordered to pay Maddow and MSNBC’s $250,000 in legal fees.
With Maddow reportedly considering exiting MSNBC at the end of her current contract later this year, the latest win makes a nice cherry on the top of the contract cake whichever way things go between the host and the Comcast-owned outlet — plus another win for a cable client by attorney Ted Boutrous.
In some ways, OAN should be glad about the panel’s decision.
Today’s appeal court ruling is, no ironic pun intended, much more conservative than what U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant wrote in her 17-page ruling in spring 2020.
Bashant said that despite the fact Maddow used the word “literally” in her commentary based on a Daily Beast story she also “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 said in a reflection of the ever spirally and tawdry state of American political discourse. “The context of Maddow’s statement shows reasonable viewers would consider the contested statement to be her opinion.”
You’ve seen Maddow’s show clearly.