MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, currently involved in a legal battle over defamation charges, has requested that a San Diego court revoke a $10 million suit filed by One America News. Her attorney claims that it was not a distortion of facts, but a “hyperbolic turn of phrase” when she dubbed the small conservative media outlet “paid Russian propaganda”, bringing up a former contributor to Russia's Sputnik, who is employed by OAN.
Maddow's attorney, Theodore J. “Ted” Boutrous Jr., noted that the host was clearly offering up her “own unique expression” of her views to capture what she saw as the “ridiculous” nature of a number of facts.
“Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false’”, he said.
A hearing on the case is set for 16 December.
Sputnik’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan weighed in on the unfolding dispute, expressing hope on her Telegram account that “the little but proud television channel will manage it all”.
In last month’s defamation suit, the plaintiff contended that the claims Maddow made on her authorial show in July were "utterly and completely false”.
The lawsuit reflects a recent tit-for-tat exchange between MSNBC, along with its umbrella company Comcast, and OAN, which, it states, underlies the conflict. The suit suggests that Maddow, by making the “Russian propaganda claims”, was retaliating against OAN President Charles Herring’s criticism of Comcast after he blasted the giant for its “anti-competitive censorship”.
OAN's attorneys assumed that Comcast had refused to include the pro-Trump channel into its cable network because its politics contradict MSNBC's “liberal" views. The suit argued that MSNBC had thus prevented its audience from "hearing a different viewpoint”.
Speaking on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on 22 July, days after Herring’s critical remarks, the host brought up a Daily Beast article that mentioned OAN-employed Kristian Rouz, who formerly contributed to the Russian media outlet Sputnik. She then went on to claim that "in this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda”.
Up in Arms Against Big Tech's 'Anti-Conservative Bias'
Bias in favour of US mainstream liberal media and attacks on right-wing outlets have long been a talking point for the current presidential administration. The White House has consistently accused tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube of hampering pro-conservative opinion makers like InfoWars founder Alex Jones or squelching posts by pro-Trump social media personalities like Diamond and Silk.
The companies have denied the allegations of bias, admitting, though, that they have been blocking or kicking out users who violate the rules.
Trump railed against censorship in July during a White House gathering, calling for his administration to explore all “regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans”, insistently calling for ignoring what he brands "fake news" media outlets, like CNN, MSNBC, etc.