SAN DIEGO (AP) — A conservative television network sued Rachel Maddow for more than $10 million on Monday for calling it "paid Russian propaganda."
One America News filed the federal defamation suit in San Diego.
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.
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.
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."
"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."