A Judge Rules Rachel Maddow is a Fake News Fabulist and Not a Journalist

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP featured image
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)


A stark admission to avoid culpability took place.

A court decision came in with a pure document-dump timing this past weekend. On Friday a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow by the upstart network One America News, and most in journalism circles probably shrugged with smug satisfaction, if they even noticed during the news vacuum on a holiday weekend.


The $10 million suit was a defamation case, where OAN stated that Maddow had slandered the network on-air when she declared it was an outlet of ‘’paid Russian propaganda’’. What has not been properly acknowledged is that in order for her to evade responsibility in the case Maddow took on the defense that she was not delivering fact-based news on her program that evening, something the judge agreed was accurate.

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,'” Judge Cynthia Bashant wrote Friday.

This is a rather amazing stance for a member of the media to take. Here we have Maddow essentially resorting to the convenient dodge more popularly employed by the likes of Jon Stewart from his tenure of the satirical ‘’The Daily Show’’. At times when he would be caught delivering an inaccuracy or potentially slanderous commentary he could fall back on, ‘’It’s only satire, who fact-checks jokes?’’ It is a far different scenario for Maddow, who cloaks herself as being a serious journalist, to resort to the clown nose on/clown nose off act of deflection.

Except — Maddow’s own quote about OAN from that evening is hardly one of unmistakable jocularity. “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”


Judge Cynthia Bashant wrote in her decision, “For her (Maddow) to exaggerate the facts and call OAN Russian propaganda was consistent with her tone up to that point.’’ Of note here is that it is left to the viewer to make the assumption when Maddow is no longer delivering serious news and information. ‘’The Court finds a reasonable viewer would not take the statement as factual given this context,” Bashant added, essentially acknowledging the ‘’fake-news’’ aspect of the Maddow broadcast.

Rachael Maddow’s own words here defy the interpretation of things being clearly and obviously a joke. It becomes one of amazement to declare a quote using ‘’really literally’’ was never intended to be treated as realistic, nor literal. Racheal Maddow has thus invalidated herself as any type of reputable source, as her words once delivered bear absolutely no semblance to reality, and anyone attempting to hold her to her quotes is operating in error.

While this is not a jarring revelation to anyone who has watched her program it is a firm departure from Maddow’s own positioning as one who frequently breaks big stories — the success rate of those notwithstanding. Fox News frequently absorbs charges of a similar nature regarding its primetime lineup, without there being this excusal of commentary/opinion granted. But the judge, in this case, manages to play along with the Maddow dodge — while ignoring a glaring contradiction in Maddow’s own defense.


To support her position Maddow referenced a Daily Beast article that noted a name on the OAN payroll is of a questionable Russian origination — someone called ‘’A Kremlin-paid journalist’’. This would then indicate that Maddow was in fact supporting her claim of accuracy, not dismissing her comments as merely a colorful interpretation. Judge Bashant elects to make a very distinct delineation in Maddow’s commentary from that evening.

Instead, he or she [the viewer] 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,” ruled Bashant. So, she was reporting the facts, then when the problematic commentary was delivered those words became just ‘’colorful commentary’’. This appears to be more than a convenient deflection; it is all the reason to declare all of Maddow’s future broadcasts to be nothing more than unserious versions of the facts.

There is some deep irony at the heart of this entire suit. Maddow, MSNBC, and also CNN – Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy in particular – have been on a mission of late to discredit OAN as a legitimate participant in their journalism environment. OAN has been called an illegitimate outlet, one earning favor by warmly supporting President Trump. For this reason, the outlets which almost exclusively hotly oppose Trump are upset.


Here lies the real humor in this decision. In the process of denigrating OAN as an illegitimate news source, Rachael Maddow had to rest on the defense that what she was delivering was itself illegitimate ‘’infotainment’’. By her own admission, the primetime hostess has declared her own words to be little more than sparkly storytelling. While the network has appealed the decision, in a manner OAN has won a victory.

It managed to get Rachael Maddow to declare in court records that she is a fabulist whose reporting does not need to be taken as the least bit accurate. It is not to be taken lightly when a major name in the media universe has gone on the record to declare what she traffics in on the air is fake news.


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