San Diego-based news channel sues Maddow over Russia claims

Political commentator Rachel Maddow during an interview on December 21, 2016 (Photo: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego-based, conservative One America News Network has filed a lawsuit against MSNBC and the network’s liberal commentator Rachel Maddow over claims OAN employs a Russia propagandist.

The legal battle stems from a July 22 show in which Maddow said the network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda” because one of OAN’s reporters, Kristian Rouz, writes articles for Sputnik News, the Russian government-owned outlet.

A search of Sputnik’s website shows articles published by Rouz as recently as July. The lawsuit includes a statement from Rouz explaining he has written about 1,300 articles over more than four years as a freelance writer for the site.

“In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump, right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” Maddow says in the July episode of her show. “Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.”

In a post announcing a defamation suit over those remarks, the network said Maddow’s statements were knowingly false and “meant to damage OAN’s business and reputation because OAN, unlike MSNBC, presents a conservative viewpoint.”

In a statement included in the lawsuit, Rouz says he has “never written propaganda, disinformation or unverified information” in working for Sputnik.

“One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego. They are as American as apple pie,” Skip Miller, an attorney for the network, said in a statement. “They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government.”

OAN’s lawsuit also alleges that Comcast refuses to carry the network on its cable programming because it counters the liberal politics of MSNBC.

The lawsuit is seeking upwards of $10,000,000 from defendants including Rachel Maddow, Comcast, NBC Universal and MSNBC. MSNBC has not immediately provided a public comment on the lawsuit.

OAN is independently owned by Herring Networks, Inc. and has operated out of San Diego since 2013. The network has at times drawn praise from President Donald Trump, sometimes as an alternative to Fox News commentators whose coverage he does not like.

We will update this developing story as we learn more.

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