Rachel Maddow’s defense to OAN defamation lawsuit is that on-air statements shouldn’t be considered fact

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is defending herself in court by claiming her statements on air should not be taken as fact.

Maddow’s lawyer referred to her “rhetorical hyperbole” in a $10 million defamation lawsuit brought by One America News Network, which the host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” claimed, “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

(File photo: MSNBC screenshot)

Theodore Boutrous Jr. claimed in a defense motion, according to Culttture, that the liberal host “was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.’”

OANN, filed the $10 million defamation lawsuit in a federal court in California in September against Maddow, Comcast Corporation, NBC Universal, and MSNBC, accusing Maddow of “maliciously and recklessly” smearing the network.

“In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America is really, literally is paid Russian propaganda,” Maddow had declared in a July segment on her show. “Their on-air politics reporter (Kristian Rouz) is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.”

A linguistics expert believes Maddow’s comments would not be perceived as an opinion by most of her viewers.

“It is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion,” UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries said, according to Culttture.

“Maddow did not use any typical opinion-markers when she stated that OANN ‘really literally is paid Russian propaganda,’” Gries added, citing analysis that studied the MSNBC host’s words, tone, and cadence.

The remarks by the 46-year-old liberal commentator were known to be “false” by the defendants named in the lawsuit, the OANN complaint alleged, and her words were “meant to damage” the conservative channel, which was launched in 2013.

OANN’s Jack Posobiec called out Maddow on Twitter following her on-air comments.

A columnist for The Washington Post slammed Maddow this week for engaging in “a pattern of misleading and dishonest asymmetry” in her reporting on the unsubstantiated Steele dossier.

“As part of her Russianist phase, Maddow became a clearinghouse for news increments regarding the dossier,” Eric Wemple wrote, adding that she “seemed to be rooting for the document.”

Maddow was confronted about her part in “crying wolf” anti-Trump conspiracies by the media during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” back in October.

“Now you have people in this country that are like, ‘We don’t believe anything anymore.’ They’re shutting [the news] off. They are not taking it as seriously as they should. And I ask you, ‘Do you think you’re part of that problem?’” co-host Abby Huntsman asked Maddow.

The MSNBC host deflected, shifting instead to a rant on the “consequence of having a really scandal-ridden presidency with all sorts of stuff that happens all the time.”


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Frieda Powers


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