Rachel Maddow spend years crying “Russia, Russia, Russia” and slinging unfounded accusations and now she finds herself in court having to disseminate what was fact and what was fiction. Maddow had accused the news organization, One America News (OAN0, of being “literally” a paid Russian propaganda asset and they have sued her for libel. Maddow is claiming that “literally” actually does not mean, well, “literally.”
The whole quagmire actually began back in July with a Daily Beast report titled, “Trump’s New Favorite Channel Employs Kremlin-Paid Journalist.”
Kevin Poulsen, the Daily Beast’s Sr. National Security Correspondent, wrote that Kristian Rouz, an OAN reporter, was a Russian national on the payroll of the Kremlin’s official propaganda outlet, Sputnik.
The same day that The Daily Beast published its piece, Maddow then stated on the air: “We literally learned today that that outlet the president is promoting shares staff with the Kremlin.”
”In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda. The on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.”
Maddow is claiming, through her lawyers, that her ‘literally’ was just rhetoric. They claim that Maddow was merely using hyperbole. That she was only expressing her own opinion. That when she said: OAN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda,”, it did not mean ‘literally’.
Maddow lawyer Theodore J. “Ted” Boutrous Jr. argued that the liberal host was clearly offering up her “own unique expression” of her views to capture what she saw as the “ridiculous” nature of the undisputed facts.
“Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false,’” he said.
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UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor, Stefan Thomas Gries, declares that argument is hogwash. In a long analysis of Maddow’s on-air speech patterns he argues that when she says “literally,” she means “in fact.”
Gries concludes “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”
The Times of San Diego notes:
“I am the second most widely-cited cognitive linguist and sixth most widely-cited living corpus linguist. The field of cognitive linguistics draws from both linguistics and psychology and studies how language interacts with cognition.”
In a response totaling 93 pages, Herring lawyer Amnon Siegel says Gries conducted a thorough analysis of Maddow’s segment, “identifying and analyzing linguistic markers (including words, tone, and cadence) used by Maddow.”
“Maddow did not use any typical opinion-markers when she stated that OAN ‘really literally is paid Russian propaganda,’” he said.
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The OAN complaint, filed in September, read.“Maddow’s statement is utterly and completely false.”
“OAN is wholly owned and financed by the Herrings, an American family. OAN has never been paid or received a penny from Russia or the Russian government. Defendants made this false claim to smear OAN’s reputation in retaliation for Plaintiff’s insistence that Defendants treat OAN fairly and offer the OAN news channel to Comcast subscribers.”
Maddow has really stepped in it this time. She regularly uses ‘literally’ in its primary meaning. Her lies are catching up to her.