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Federal Judge Ruled MSNBC Viewers Know Rachel Maddow Offers Exaggeration And Opinion Not Facts

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MSNBC’s top star Rachel Maddow got some good news when a recent court ruling went her way, but in doing so, the court gave up Rachel’s game. The court ruled in favor of Maddow in a defamation case from OANN but gave a stunning reason for doing so, namely that Maddows’s viewers know she offers exaggeration and opinion, not facts.

The court wrote: “On one hand, a viewer who watches news channels tunes in for facts and the goings-on of the world. MSNBC indeed produces news, but this point must be juxtaposed with the fact that Maddow made the allegedly defamatory statement on her own talk show news segment where she is invited and encouraged to share her opinions with her viewers. Maddow does not keep her political views a secret, and therefore, audiences could expect her to use subjective language that comports with her political opinions.

“Thus, Maddow’s show is different than a typical news segment where anchors inform viewers about the daily news. The point of Maddow’s show is for her to provide the news but also to offer her opinions as to that news. Therefore, the Court finds that the medium of the alleged defamatory statement makes it more likely that a reasonable viewer would not conclude that the contested statement implies an assertion of objective fact.

“Viewers expect her to do so, as it is indeed her show, and viewers watch the segment with the understanding that it will contain Maddow’s “personal and subjective views” about the news. See id.

“Thus, the Court finds that as a part of the totality of the circumstances, the broad context weighs in favor of a finding that the alleged defamatory statement is Maddow’s opinion and exaggeration of the Daily Beast article, and that reasonable viewers would not take the statement as factual. 

“Here, Maddow had inserted her own colorful commentary into and throughout the segment, laughing, expressing her dismay (i.e., saying “I mean, what?”) and calling the segment a “sparkly story” and one we must “take in stride.” For her to exaggerate the facts and call OAN Russian propaganda was consistent with her tone up to that point, and the Court finds a reasonable viewer would not take the statement as factual given this context.

“The context of Maddow’s statement shows reasonable viewers would consider the contested statement to be her opinion. A reasonable viewer would not actually think OAN is paid Russian propaganda, instead, he or she would follow the facts of the Daily Beast article; that OAN and Sputnik share a reporter and both pay this reporter to write articles. Anything beyond this is Maddow’s opinion or her exaggeration of the facts.

“The court said that Rachel Maddow is among those “speakers whose statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of fact…the Court finds that the contested statement is an opinion that cannot serve as the basis for a defamation claim.”

Reporter Glen Greenwald explains why this case is so significant. He wrote about that when Fox was sued and they used the same defense and won, the media and others claimed this was an admission Fox was full of it without noting they do the same.

Glenn wrote:

“This is worth noting because of how often, and how dishonestly, this court case regarding Carlson is cited to claim that even Fox itself admits that its host is a liar who cannot be trusted.

“This court ruling has become a very common argument used by liberals to claim that even Fox acknowledges that Carlson lies. Indeed, Maddow’s own colleague Chris Hayes — whose MSNBC program is broadcast at the same time as Carlson’s and routinely attracts less than 1/3 of the Fox host’s audience — has repeatedly cited this court case to argue that even Fox admits Carlson is a liar, without bothering to note that his companies’ lawyers made exactly the same claims about his mentor, Rachel Maddow, to defend her from a defamation lawsuit.

“This claim — even Fox admits that Carlson is a liar who cannot be believed! — has become such a common trope among liberals that it is impossible to count how many times I have heard it.

“And that is because the liberal sector of the corporate media blared this claim in headlines over and over after the lawsuit against Fox was dismissed.

“It is virtually impossible to find similar headlines about Maddow even though the judicial rationale justifying dismissal of the lawsuit against her was virtually identical to the one used in Carlson’s case.

“Indeed, lawyers for MSNBC and Fox cited most of the same legal precedent to defend their stars and to insist that their statements could not be actionable as defamation because viewers understood it as opinion rather than fact,” he wrote.

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