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Rachel Maddow and Her Co-Stars Made ‘Verifiably False’ Statements About a Doctor They Called the ‘Uterus Collector.’ Now His $30 Million Lawsuit Is Headed For Trial.

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NBCUniversal is headed for trial after a judge ruled in favor of a Georgia doctor who MSNBC’s biggest stars accused of performing “mass hysterectomies” on women at a Trump-era immigration facility in Georgia. The judge ruled that Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, and Chris Hayes made “verifiably false” statements about the doctor, who is suing NBC for $30 million.

The discovery process in the lawsuit, which has received little attention, has drawn back the curtain on the inner workings of MSNBC, revealing how the liberal cable network works hand in hand with NBC News, which seeks to portray itself as nonpartisan. NBCUniversal’s standards department reviewed and approved the reporting on the Georgia doctor, before it was published on NBCNews.com and then broadcast on MSNBC programs. The NBC News correspondents, Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley, worked closely with a standards executive during their reporting. Soboroff is also an MSNBC correspondent.

Furthermore, Maddow—who was deposed for the lawsuit—and Hayes were personally involved in the off-camera vetting and editorial conversations around the segment to an extent that can be unusual for on-camera hosts.

Maddow is reportedly paid about $30 million a year by NBCUniversal to host her show one evening a week and work on longer-range projects.

In her ruling last month, the judge, Lisa Godbey Wood of the Southern District of Georgia,  found that Maddow, Hayes, and Wallace made 39 “verifiably false” allegations about Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist who treated detainees at a Georgia Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility.

A nurse at the facility had made a whistleblower complaint alleging that Amin was performing “mass hysterectomies,” many of which were medically unnecessary, and that he was known as “the uterus collector.” The nurse’s claims, which she admitted were based on hearsay, were later found to be false.

“In the end, we are left with this: NBC investigated the whistleblower letter’s accusations; that investigation did not corroborate the accusations and even undermined some; NBC republished the letter’s accusations anyway,” Wood wrote in a scathing 108-page ruling on June 26. She ordered a jury trial to determine if MSNBC engaged in “actual malice,” the standard to determine defamation.

The discovery process revealed how MSNBC and NBC News journalists and executives acknowledged privately—in text messages, emails, and conference calls—that they didn’t know if the allegations were true, but reported them anyway. The lawsuit could prove embarrassing to MSNBC, which bills itself the “premier destination” for news and “informed perspectives.” Communications obtained during the discovery process revealed that many executives and top journalists at the network had concerns about the whistleblower, but breathlessly reported her claims anyway.

“We just don’t know if any of this is true,” Chris Scholl, an NBC News veteran who is NBCUniversal’s deputy director of standards, said in a conference call with Hayes on Sept. 16, 2020, according to notes released in the lawsuit. The evening before, MSNBC had broadcast a story detailing claims from the whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the ICE facility.

“The guy has a pretty clean record,” Scholl said of Amin in the conference call. Scholl added that Wooten “has no direct knowledge of this stuff” and “kind of has a beef,” though he did not elaborate.

Despite Scholl’s concerns, Hayes, Maddow, and Wallace aired several segments about Wooten’s allegations on their evening MSNBC programs, sparking a Senate investigation into Amin’s activities.

On her top-rated MSNBC show, Maddow quoted a detainee as saying, “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp.” Maddow went on to say, “The nurse says she and her fellow nurses, quote, questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out that’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector … He’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taking their tubes out.”

Whistleblower Dawn Wooten conducts an interview with MSNBC.

Amin sued MSNBC for defamation in September 2021, denying that he had performed any unnecessary medical procedures. The Senate probe found no evidence the physician had done so and that, contrary to the allegations, two hysterectomies he performed were “deemed medically necessary” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since its hard left turn in the mid-2000s, MSNBC has sought to portray itself as fully separate from NBC News, which produces iconic programs like “Today” and “Nightly News” for NBC’s broadcast channel and is also responsible for NBC News’s digital operation. Amin’s lawsuit, however, reveals how MSNBC is in fact part and parcel of the broader NBC News operation.

Sensitive stories at NBC News are supposed to be reviewed by NBCUniversal’s standards and practices department, of which Scholl, a former NBC News producer, is an executive. As a matter of procedure, standards executives are supposed to loop in NBC News’s legal department if deemed necessary. It’s not clear if NBC News’s attorneys were involved in vetting the segment.

Amin’s lawsuit is the latest black eye for MSNBC, which aggressively pushed several false narratives during the Trump administration, during which the cable network generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for NBCUniversal and its parent company, Comcast. The liberal cable network spent much of President Trump’s tenure pushing the debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative, including in dozens of segments on Maddow’s program. MSNBC settled a defamation lawsuit from Nicholas Sandmann after the network aired more than a dozen segments about the Kentucky high school student’s confrontation with a Native American activist at the National Mall in 2019. MSNBC employees accused Sandmann of a “hate crime,” among other allegations.

NBC News’s involvement in reporting the “uterus collector” story began with a Sept. 15, 2020, article by Ainsley, a homeland security reporter, Soboroff, who covers immigration issues for NBC News and MSNBC, and Danielle Silva, an NBC News national reporter who covers immigration and education. The NBC News journalists obtained Wooten’s whistleblower complaint and spoke with her for the story. Their story stated that “women are routinely being sent to a gynecologist who has left them bruised and performed unnecessary procedures, including hysterectomies.”

But emails and text messages revealed during the lawsuit’s discovery phase show the reporters had lingering doubts about Wooten, and about how many women underwent hysterectomies.

Soboroff wrote in one text message that an immigration attorney he spoke with offered “mixed feelings” about Wooten. And Ainsley expressed concern at the small number of procedures Amin was alleged to perform.

“Just two hysterectomies?” Ainsley wrote to Soboroff on Sept. 15, 2020.

Maddow and Hayes also had early doubts about Wooten’s claims. Hayes said he initially “discounted the whole thing” when he saw whistleblower allegations circulate on social media. Nevertheless, he interviewed Wooten on his show on Sept. 15, 2020, in a segment entitled “ICE whistleblower speaks out, alleges mass hysterectomies performed on migrant women.”

Hayes teased the interview with Wooten as “shocking whistleblower allegations of atrocities at an ICE detention center including forced hysterectomies on women who don’t need them.”

In a conference call with Hayes the following day, Scholl, the MSNBC standards executive, acknowledged they still had no idea whether Wooten’s claims were accurate, and whether or not Amin was a “a good doctor or a shitty doctor.”

“We don’t know the facts here,” Scholl said. Hayes replied: “Right, right, right, right.”

Days after MSNBC’s series of reports, dozens of Democratic senators called for an investigation into Amin and the ICE facility. But that probe failed to substantiate Wooten’s claims.

“The Subcommittee did not substantiate the allegations of mass hysterectomies on ICDC detainees. Records indicate that Dr. Amin performed two hysterectomies on ICDC detainees between 2017 and 2019. Both procedures were deemed medically necessary by ICE,” the Senate report says.

A trial date in the case has not been set.

MSNBC did not respond to a request for comment. NBCUniversal usually settles these kinds of lawsuits before they reach the stage Amin’s has. In this case, however, company executives appear to have decided to go before a jury.

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