A California judge ordered OAN’s parent company to pay $250,000 in Rachel Maddow and MSNBC’s legal fees after its failed defamation suit

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on October 2, 2019. Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
  • A judge ordered far-right outlet OAN’s parent company to pay $US250,000 in Rachel Maddow and MSNBC’s legal fees.
  • Herring Networks in 2019 sued MSNBC and Maddow for defamation after the anchor said OAN was “paid Russian propaganda.”
  • A judge decided against Herring Networks, ruling there was “no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation.”
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A California judge ordered Herring Networks, the parent company of the far-right cable news outlet One America News, to pay $US250,000 in legal fees to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC’s following its failed defamation suit against them in 2019, according to a report from Law&Crime.

In July 2019, Herring Networks filed a defamation suit in a San Diego court against Maddow, Comcast, MSNBC, and NBCUniversal Media, arguing the network’s primetime anchor made defamatory claims about OAN during a broadcast in which Maddow said that OAN “literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

Herring sued MSNBC and Maddow for $US10 million after she made the comments during a July 22, 2019, broadcast of “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Her claims followed a report from The Daily Beast that reported an employee of the pro-Trump network also worked for the Russian-owned Sputnik News, as The Associated Press previously reported.


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“Their on-air US politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government,” Maddow said at the time.

Lawyers for MSNBC and Maddow countersued under California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation statute, which allows for defendants to file to strike a motion on the basis that “any act . . . in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue.”

US District Judge Cynthia Bashant last year dismissed Herring Networks lawsuits with prejudice, deciding there were “no set of facts that could support a claim for defamation based on Maddow’s statement,” according to the report.

Under the anti-SLAPP law, defendants who successfully have their suit tossed out are entitled to have at least a portion of their legal fees used for their defence covered by the party that brought the dismissed suit.

Herring Networks was ordered to pay Maddow and MSNBC’s legal fees for about 363 hours of work by lawyers that totaled $US247,667.50, according to the report. They were also awarded an additional $US10,724 for hours that were billed by paralegals, Law&Crime reported.

“This ruling reflects that One America News’ lawsuit is totally baseless, and we expect to continue to prevail on appeal,” an MSNBC spokesperson said in a statement following the ruling.

Charles Herring, the president of Herring Networks, told Law&Crime in a statement that it was in the process of appealing the ruling.

“We’re pleased that the fees were reduced by nearly a third by the court,” he told the outlet. “The case is currently under appeal and we’re highly confident that we’ll receive a favourable and just ruling in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.”