Judge Cynthia Bashant’s order Monday delaying a hearing on Rachel Maddow’s arguments on why slander suit should be dismissed.

The federal judge overseeing the $10 million slander suit against MSNBC star Rachel Maddow has put off a hearing on her request to dismiss the case.

On Monday, citing the “Covid-19 virus outbreak,” U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant in San Diego delayed oral arguments on the so-called motion to strike by nearly two months.

Originally set for March 26, the hearing was reset for 10:30 a.m. May 19 — a Tuesday.

Bashant, appointed in 2014 by President Obama, took over the case last September from Judge John A. Houston.

The suit was filed that month by Herring Networks Inc., owners of San Diego-based One America News Network, or OAN, after Maddow said the network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”

Herring Networks Inc. complaint against Rachel Maddow and MSNBC. (PDF)

Maddow’s on-air statements were “utterly and completely false” because OAN “is wholly financed by the Herrings, an American family” and “has never been paid or received a penny from Russia or the Russian government,” the suit said.

Maddow, 46, made the statements during a July 22 segment of her show, in which she cited a Daily Beast article stating that an OAN on-air reporter was “on the payroll for the Kremlin.”

In October, famed lawyer Theodore J. “Ted” Boutrous Jr. argued that the court should throw out the complaint, saying Maddow was clearly offering up her “own unique expression” of her views to capture what she saw as the “ridiculous” nature of the undisputed facts.

He cited the anti-SLAPP statute, first enacted in 1992, which allows targets of certain lawsuits to ask a court to dismiss a complaint when it involves the rights of petition and free speech. (SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.”)

But UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries argued that when Maddow says “literally,” she means “in fact.”

Gries, retained by Herring as an expert witness, says he reviewed the segment in question and concludes “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”

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