A federal appeals court has ruled against Herring Networks — which owns the far-right media outlet known as One America News — in a libel case that they brought against MSNBC and host Rachel Maddow in response to the host’s on-air description of One America News as “Russian propaganda.” Back in 2019, after The Daily Beast publicized how One America News employed someone paid by the Kremlin, Maddow offered that description of One America News as “Russian propaganda” during an episode of her show. As Maddow put it at the time, “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda” — but a lower level federal judge and now the appeals court handling the case have concluded that Maddow’s remark wasn’t “actionable,” as The Hollywood Reporter explains.
In other words, as The Hollywood Reporter puts it, the appeals court concluded that Maddow “implied no assertion of objective fact.” The appeals court upheld a ruling in MSNBC and Maddow’s favor from a lower court. In the new appeals court ruling, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. commented as follows:
‘In comparison to the undisputed facts that Maddow reports, the contested statement was particularly emphatic and unfounded: Maddow went from stating that OAN employs a Sputnik employee to stating that OAN reports Russian propaganda. A reasonable person would understand Maddow’s contested statement as an ‘obvious exaggeration,’ that is, as Maddow explains, ‘sandwiched between precise factual recitations’ of The Daily Beast article.’
This latest ruling is not the only legal headache for One America News. The outlet has also been sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems, a voting technology company that’s been the subject of pro-Trump conspiracy theories about imaginary election-rigging in favor of Joe Biden. Dominion is seeking over $1.6 billion in damages from One America News. The tech company’s lawsuit against One America News was unveiled on the same day that a defamation lawsuit seeking the same level of damages from the right-wing outlet known as Newsmax was also revealed. Both outlets have provided a platform for the unhinged election-related conspiracy theories that have dominated Trump World in the months since last year’s presidential election. Dominion has filed similar lawsuits against other interests, like longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani.