One America News sued Rachel Maddow for more than $10 million on Monday for defamation after she called the conservative television network "paid Russian propaganda."
The TV network, whose attorney said the company is "as American as apple pie" and has nothing to do with Russia, filed the federal defamation suit in San Diego. In a statement, OAN claimed Maddow knew her statement was false and "acted maliciously and recklessly in making it."
The small, family-owned network based in San Diego is challenging Fox News for conservative cable and satellite TV viewers and has received favorable tweets from President Donald Trump.
The lawsuit contends that Maddow's comment on her July 22 MSNBC show were retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused cable television giant Comcast of censorship. The suit contends that Comcast refused to carry the channel because it "counters the liberal politics of Comcast's own news channel, MSNBC."
A week after Herring sent an email to a Comcast executive, Maddow opened her MSNBC show by referring to a report in the Daily Beast that said an OAN employee also worked for Sputnik News, which is linked to the Russian government.
"In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda," Maddow said on "The Rachel Maddow Show."
"Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government," Maddow said.
Freelancer for Sputnik News
In the lawsuit, OAN said Kristian Rouz was a freelancer for Sputnik News, not a staff employee, and his work there had nothing to do with his work for OAN. Rouz' segments for OAN tend to focus on international news, such as articles about Brexit negotiations and Iran tensions.
According to a copy of the lawsuit published by Deadline.com, Rouz was born in the Ukraine and started writing for Sputnik News in 2014 "to make ends meet."
"Sputnik News is affiliated with the Russian government, but Rouz chose the topics and viewpoints of the articles he wrote for Sputnik News," the lawsuit says. "Rouz's articles provided updates about various topics in global economics and international finance."
The lawsuit includes a statement from Rouz that said he wrote some 1,300 articles over the past 4 ½ years for Sputnik but "I have never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information." The lawsuit adds that he earned $40 per article.
"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," Skip Miller, an attorney representing OAN, said in a statement. "This is a false and malicious libel, and they're going to answer for it in a court of law."
The suit names Maddow, Comcast, MSNBC and NBCUniversal Media.
A message seeking comment from an MSNBC spokeswoman was not immediately returned.
However, the lawsuit included an Aug. 6 letter from Amy Wolf, an attorney for NBCUniversal News Group, to OAN's attorney.
It said OAN "publishes content collected or created by a journalist who is also paid by the Russian government for writing over a thousand articles. Ms. Maddow's recounting of this arrangement is substantially true and therefore not actionable.