OAN retracts, apologizes for Cohen-Daniels affair story

By Marshall Cohen | Associated Press

The far-right cable network One America News retracted a story and apologized Monday after it falsely claimed former President Donald Trump’s ex lawyer Michael Cohen was the one who had an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels and secretly used it to “extort” the Trump Organization.

Cohen and Daniels are both key witnesses against Trump in his ongoing New York state criminal trial. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover-up the $130,000 payment that Daniels received so she wouldn’t publicly reveal their alleged affair before the 2016 election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and denies the affair.

The announcement from OAN contained a public apology to Cohen “for any harm the publication may have caused him” and said that the network “regrets” publishing the “false” allegations about a Cohen-Daniel affair, which they both denied. The network said the story would be removed from its website and social media accounts.

The retraction did not include a financial payment, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The article was published last month and claimed, according to a single unnamed source, that Cohen and Daniels were in a years-long affair and that “the whole hush money scheme was cooked up” by Cohen. The false allegations appear to originate from a right-wing figure who posted the allegations on X, formerly Twitter.

“The notion that right before the election I would extort the man I fervently supported and believed was about to become president, all to make $130,000 that I did not even keep for myself, is beyond absurd. It’s just plain stupid,” Cohen said in a statement.

The acknowledgement from OAN that it had published false claims marks the latest example of how right-wing media outlets continue to face consequences for promoting pro-Trump disinformation. OAN recently settled a defamation lawsuit with Smartmatic, a voting technology company that was falsely accused of rigging the 2020 election against Trump. The terms of that deal aren’t public.

The speed at which OAN settled the Cohen dispute – just four weeks after the story was published – speaks to the potential peril that the small network could face from additional defamation lawsuits.

Cohen hired veteran attorney Justin Nelson after OAN published the story last month. Nelson is best known for representing Dominion Voting Systems in its blockbuster defamation case against Fox News, which ended with a historic $787 million settlement last year.

“Today’s retraction by OAN represents a victory for accountability,” Nelson said in a statement. “This retraction is not about money. It is about protecting the truth.”

An attorney for OAN didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

OAN has established itself as perhaps the most extreme of the pro-Trump news outlets. The little-watched network has regularly given airtime to baseless conspiracy theories, most prominently in the wake of the 2020 election.

Its reporters have sometimes crossed the line into right-wing politicking. For instance, an OAN correspondent who simultaneously worked with the Trump campaign on its 2020 fake electors was indicted last week in Arizona in connection with the electors scheme.

OAN still faces a separate defamation lawsuit brought by Nelson’s law firm on behalf of Dominion over its promotion of 2020 election lies.

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