SAN DIEGO (CN) – Comcast says a comment by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews this week calling San Diego-based One America News “Russian-owned” isn’t related to a similar statement made by host Rachel Maddow that’s the subject of a defamation lawsuit.
On Monday, “Hardball” host Matthews called OAN “Russian-owned” before adding: “Maybe it’s not Russian-owned but of that point of view.”
After a commercial break, Matthews issued a retraction.
“I thought that was Russian-owned, it’s owned by an American so I’ll straighten that out right now,” he said.
By Wednesday, Miller Barondess attorney Amnon Siegel for OAN had petitioned U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant in the Southern District of California to allow them to supplement the court record with Matthews’ comments in a defamation suit brought in September over MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s statement that OAN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda” during a broadcast this past summer.
OAN said in a court filing this week Matthews’ comments reiterate their argument Maddow’s earlier statement about OAN being “Russian propaganda” was understood to be a fact.
“This reiteration of Maddow’s claim on the same network demonstrates that Maddow’s original statement was intended to be – and, in fact, was – understood literally and factually,” Siegel wrote.
It also suggested Matthews’ retraction shows Comcast knows Maddow’s statement is false. Comcast owns MSNBC.
“Despite plaintiff’s pre-litigation retraction demand, defendants refused to correct Maddow’s false statement. This lawsuit would have never been filed, and Matthews would not have perpetuated a falsehood about OAN, had Maddow issued an appropriate retraction,” according to the petition.
But in a reply by Comcast and Maddow filed Friday, they claim Matthews’ comments should not be added to the court record because the statement was made more than four months after Maddow’s comment and had no bearing on how an “average viewer” of Maddow’s July 22 show would have understood her statement.
“Mr. Matthews did not refer to Ms. Maddow’s July 22 statements about OAN, nor did he state that his Dec. 9 comments were based on his understanding of what she said,” according to the filing by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr.
Comcast’s attorney also argued the comments by Matthews and Maddow were different, with Maddow’s statement made in reference to a Daily Beast article about OAN’s U.S. politics reporter who had also been paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda.
“The entire context of Ms. Maddow’s segment – which was based entirely on The Daily Beast article, as her words and on-screen graphics confirm – makes clear that she was commenting on the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the day’s news, a ‘sparkly story’ in which a U.S. news network employs a reporter who is also paid by the Kremlin-financed Sputnik in the midst of an ongoing national conversation about Russian election interference,” Boutrous wrote.
By contrast, Matthews’ statement this week was made while he was commenting on Rudy Giuliani’s trip to Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian prosecutors as part of a television program filmed for OAN, according to Comcast.
“His different comments in a different context do not change the fact that plaintiff has conceded it employs a reporter who is also paid by a Russian propaganda media organization – thereby confirming Ms. Maddow’s statement is substantially true,” the attorney wrote.