Herring Networks, Inc., a San Diego-based company that owns and operates One America News Network, or OAN, filed the suit on Sept. 9.
The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in California, also names NBC Universal and Comcast.
According to the complaint, Comcast “refused to carry OAN as part of its cable programming because OAN counters the liberal politics of its own channel, MSNBC.”
The complaint also alleges that one week after the president of OAN, Charles Herring, objected to the so-called anti-competitive censorship in an email to Comcast’s president of content acquisition, the network was targeted by Maddow, who helms the networks most popular show.
Maddow ripped OAN during a segment and claimed that the network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
The defendants knew that the statement was false and that they acted maliciously and recklessly in making it, the complaint alleges.
According to California defamation law, the elements of a defamation claim are: publication of a statement of fact that is false, unprivileged, has a natural tendency to injure or cause “special damage,” and the defendant’s fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence.
The statement was meant to damage the network’s business and reputation and was in retaliation for calling out Comcast for declining to carry OAN, the plaintiffs said.
Maddow was passing on a story from the Daily Beast that alleged an OAN reporter, Kristian Rouz, wrote for Russian-owned Sputnik at the same time he was working for OAN.
“The actual news that this super right-wing news outlet that the president has repeatedly endorsed as a preferable alternative to Fox News because he thinks Fox is insufficiently pro-Trump, so now he like this is other outlet better,” Maddow said during the July 22 broadcast.
She said that the network “shares staff with the Kremlin.”
“Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government,” Maddow said. “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really, literally is, paid Russian propaganda.”
Last night on your disgraced conspiracy show you falsely claimed @OANN is “literally is paid Russian propaganda”
Do you have a shred of evidence to back up this?
Do you understand how defamation laws work?
Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) July 23, 2019
Good morning to everyone – including Rachel Maddow who opened her show last night discussing @OANN. If @maddow needs help understanding the Russiagate hoax that she pushed for two years, I’m here for her.
— Emerald Robinson ✝️ (@EmeraldRobinson) July 23, 2019
A day later, OAN anchor Jack Posobiec wrote on Twitter, tagging Maddow: “Last night on your disgraced conspiracy show you falsely claimed @OANN is “literally is paid Russian propaganda” Questions: Do you have a shred of evidence to back up this? Do you understand how defamation laws work? Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.”
“Good morning to everyone – including Rachel Maddow who opened her show last night discussing @OANN. If @maddow needs help understanding the Russiagate hoax that she pushed for two years, I’m here for her,” added Emerald Robinson, the network’s White House reporter.
In a new statement, Skip Miller, a partner at the Los Angeles-based Miller Baroness, LLP, who is representing OAN, said: “One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego. They are as American as apple pie.”
“They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government. This is a false and malicious libel, and they’re going to answer for it in a court of law,” he added.
NBC Universal and MSNBC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Maddow has consistently pushed conspiracy theories about Russia since President Donald Trump was elected. She appeared to cry on air when telling her viewers that special counsel Robert Mueller couldn’t establish collusion between Russia and Trump and her ratings have suffered since that announcement.
Her show has declined steadily, dropping from second overall on cable news to fifth overall.