A federal judge in New York declined to dismiss a defamation suit brought by former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) against NBCUniversal Media over a comment made by host Rachel Maddow concerning his relationship with a suspected Russian agent.
The host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” had implied in a March 2021 broadcast that Nunes had failed to turn over to authorities a package from Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian legislator, adding, “which is what you should do if you get something from somebody who is sanctioned by the U.S. as a Russian agent.”
U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan said Monday that Nunes “plausibly allege[d] actual malice” with respect to this statement, adding in a 22-page decision that Maddow did not attribute Nunes’ alleged refusal to any source. He added that while she might have known about a similar accusation in a Politico article, “a court does not weigh competing, plausible theories of actual malice on a motion to dismiss.”
Castel said other statements made by Maddow were not defamatory. Maddow is not a defendant in the case.
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach in September 2020 for trying to interfere in that year’s U.S. Presidential election.
NBCUniversal and its lawyers did not immediately respond to reporters’ request for comment, nor to Nunes’ lawyers.