News and Commentary

Judge Rules Rachel Maddow’s ‘Statements Cannot Reasonably Be Interpreted As Allegations Of Fact’
TODAY -- Pictured: Rachel Maddow on Tuesday, October 2, 2019 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

The jealous competitors of Tucker Carlson have increasingly relied upon the same argument to dismiss any news broken by his top-rated show: claiming that Carlson’s lawyers admitted that his show is not journalism and that Carlson’s doesn’t pretend to be truthful.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo provided a prime example last Wednesday. “Here’s what should bother you: His employer said in open court that he is not to be taken seriously,” said Cuomo, who has been known to be less than forthcoming himself. “Why aren’t they telling you: ‘Don’t take this man as truthful, because we said in open court he is not to be believed by reasonable people’? They said it!”

CNN’s Medical Expert, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, summarized the argument last month (in an opinion piece):

In the past, Fox’s own lawyers have argued that Carlson shouldn’t be taken seriously. After Carlson accused former Playboy model Karen McDougal of extorting President Donald Trump, she filed a defamation lawsuit in 2019. US District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, who ruled in Carlson’s favor, wrote an opinion echoing much of Fox’s own defense of the Fox News host. “This ‘general tenor’ of the show should then inform a viewer that [Carlson] is not ‘stating actual facts’ about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in ‘exaggeration’ and ‘non-literal commentary,'” she wrote.

Since Judge Vyskocil’s decision last September, the allegation that Fox News admitted Tucker Carlson is a liar has become ubiquitous among the (less successful) legacy media. The Washington Post claimed the ruling proved that Carlson’s show spews “nonsense” because “Carlson’s mind is an inscrutable mess.”

NPR crafted the headline (at your expense): “You Literally Can’t Believe The Facts Tucker Carlson Tells You. So Say Fox’s Lawyers.” CBS News wrote, “Judge tosses suit over Trump affair story after Fox News argues no ‘reasonable viewer’ takes Tucker Carlson seriously.” Even Chris Hayes of MSNBC has used this argument.

The idea that Tucker Carlson is a carnival barker seems to conflict with the media’s other narrative about Carlson this week: that Carlson is so truthful that he’s become, in the words of The New York Times’ Ben Smith, other media outlets’ “best source.” But then, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

And the media certainly haven’t shown any consistency when it comes to a nearly identical court case made by MSNBC’s most popular personality, Rachel Maddow.

A gleeful Maddow reported that a journalist for the conservative One America News Network, Kristian Rouz, also worked as a freelance writer for Russia’s Sputnik News. Maddow said that the revelation — which came in July 2019 — shortly after the Mueller Report dispelled notions that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election —  proved that pro-Trump OANN “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

OANN hit Maddow with a $10 million defamation lawsuit, noting that the network does “not receive any money from the Russian government, OAN does not get paid by Russia, and OAN has absolutely no relationship with Russia.” Maddow’s attorneys made a similar argument, which became a part of the official ruling when U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant dismissed OANN’s case.

“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,” the ruling held. “A reasonable viewer would not conclude that the contested statement implies an assertion of objective fact.”

Maddow’s “statements cannot reasonably be interpreted as allegations of fact,” decided Bashant, an Obama appointee. (Vyskocil was also a Trump appointee.) She then ordered OANN to pay MSNBC $250,000 in legal fees; OANN has taken the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.

Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald cited Bashant’s ruling while juxtaposing the media’s divergent treatment of the two talk show hosts in a Substack column. “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,” he wrote. “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.”

By the media’s logic, if Tucker Carlson’s segments are pure nonsense, so are Rachel Maddow’s. Fox News’ legal arguments no more admit that Tucker Carlson is a ratings-chasing clown than MSNBC’s arguments say the same about Maddow. Yet the only report this author could find that noted the judge called into question Maddow’s truthfulness came from The Hill, by Joe Concha.

Furthermore, neither network can be said to be “more truthful” on the basis of these rulings: Tucker Carlson is Fox News’ most popular host, as is Maddow for MSNBC.

“[W]hatever else is true, those who want to claim that this court ruling proves Carlson is a lying propagandist who cannot be trusted have no way out of applying the same claim to Maddow,” wrote Greenwald. “Ironically, those most guilty of being unreliable liars and propagandists are those in the media and even Maddow’s own MSNBC colleagues who repeatedly cite this court ruling to delegitimize Carlson without ever mentioning that Maddow’s lawyers successfully used the same arguments in her defense.”

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Judge Rules Rachel Maddow’s ‘Statements Cannot Reasonably Be Interpreted As Allegations Of Fact’