Far-right TV Channel OAN Retracts Article about Michael Cohen

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post
Michael Cohen in Washington in 2019.

In an unusual move, the far-right cable outlet One America News on Monday retracted a story promoting claims that former Trump fixer Michael Cohen had an affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and attempted to “extort” the Trump Organization before the 2016 election.

While Cohen’s lawyers deemed the move “a victory for accountability,” no money changed hands in the “legal settlement” they reached with OAN.

The claims were showcased in a March 27 online story that compiled social media posts by Tony Seruga, a self-described investor and “big data pioneer,” who alleged he learned of them from Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ former attorney who is in prison for stealing millions of dollars from his legal clients.

The since-removed story was written by Brooke Mallory, but that byline was later removed. The article did not contain any apparent original reporting, simply collecting Seruga’s tweets. The article commented that “Seruga has released a report that, if confirmed, would shatter the story surrounding Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump that Biden and the mainstream media have been hanging onto for years.”

OAN’s retraction noted that all involved parties – Cohen, Avenatti and Daniels – denied the claims.

“OAN apologizes to Mr. Cohen for any harm the publication may have caused him,” the network wrote. “To be clear, no evidence suggests that Mr. Cohen and Ms. Daniels were having an affair and no evidence suggests that Mr. Cohen ‘cooked up’ the scheme to extort the Trump Organization before the 2016 election.”

Cohen is expected to testify in Trump’s hush money trial in New York, where the former president is accused of falsifying business records to conceal a payment made to Cohen as a reimbursement for paying Daniels to suppress her story about having an alleged affair with Trump.

Justin Nelson, the Susman Godfrey attorney who played a prominent role in Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News, represented Cohen in his dispute with OAN. “This retraction is not about money,” he said in a statement. “It is about protecting the truth.”

Two weeks ago, OAN agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the voting technology company Smartmatic, which alleged it was defamed by the network’s coverage of the 2020 election.

In April 2022, OAN also reached a settlement with Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss over allegations that the two had engaged in ballot fraud. As part of that agreement, OAN aired a segment clarifying that Freeman and Moss did no such thing.

One year earlier, the conservative cable network Newsmax clarified claims made about Dominion’s director of product strategy and security, Eric Coomer, tying him to accusations of voting fraud. “Newsmax subsequently found no evidence that such allegations were true,” the network said in a statement that is no longer online.

Generally, though, it’s rare for television networks to fully retract online articles. Fox News, for example, did not retract any coverage related to Dominion’s role in the 2020 election following the historic $787.5 million settlement that was reached in April 2023.

On Monday afternoon, Cohen celebrated the retraction and called it “the first apology in a long line of lies about me by media outlets” in a post on X.