John Oliver dared a coal exec to sue him, and now he's being sued


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Last week's John Oliver segment on Robert E. Murray, CEO of the coal mining Murray Energy Corporation, noted that Murray had a history of litigation against his critics in the news media, including the New York Times, and predicted that Murray would go on to sue Oliver (Murray's lawyers had sent Oliver a letter warning him about this possibility, and promising to pursue litigation to the nation's highest courts).

The segment ended with a giant squirrel that referenced a story Oliver had heard from Murray's workers, claiming that Murray told his employees he started his company after meeting a talking squirrel. Oliver said he didn't believe the squirrel story was true.

On Wednesday, Murray filed suit against Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner, in a West Virginia circuit court, claiming that Oliver engaged in a "meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation" of Murray.

In an emailed statement, Murray Energy said the company sent letters earlier this month to Oliver, Time Warner and HBO, then held a conference call with their counsel on Saturday to “correct what we knew of their proposed false and destructive broadcast.” The defendants “ignored our communications and, instead, continued to baselessly and maliciously attack the character of Mr. Murray and Murray Energy, with no factual basis whatsoever,” the statement read.

“We have confidence in the staff of Last Week Tonight and do not believe anything in the show this week violated Mr. Murray’s or Murray Energy’s rights,” HBO said.

Murray is known for aggressively suing journalists and media organizations that run critical content about him and his companies. Between 2001 and 2015, he filed at least nine lawsuits against journalists and news outlets that published a negative advertisement from an activist group, claiming they maligned his character and threatened his employees’ jobs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Most if not all never went to trial.

In 2013, he sued the Huffington Post and a blogger for defamation over a story that called him an “extremist coal baron” and criticized his donations to a gubernatorial candidate. The case was dismissed the following year.

John Oliver, a giant squirrel and a defamation lawsuit by a coal industry titan [Derek Hawkins/Washington Post]



Given his behaviour and statements over the years, that toad Murray would have an easier time winning and collecting by suing himself first.

I can imagine the howls of laughter and delight in Oliver’s production office when they got this news.



I know this is a bit overused on BB, but seriously…

Christ, what an asshole.


He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.


I’m guessing that HBO and Time Warner have more than enough lawyers in $5000 suits to handle a bogus defamation charge.


Whoa, going old school over here.


The best part was that they knew full well that Murray was going to sue them and they ran it anyway. In a world where the very wealthy had to play by the same rules as everyone else, Murray would have been labeled a vexatious litigant a long time ago because he sues pretty much anybody who says anything bad about him. He’s like a flabbier, shrewder, Trump.


Absolutely, I seem to recall Oliver specifically mentioning that they expected to get sued for the segment.


OMG! Mr. Nutterbutter rules!


The problem with being of modest means and getting sued by rich people is that rich people can run you out of money to the extent that even if you win, you end up losing.


Actually what is awesome is if you listen to Oliver’s piece…its worded very carefully. He never says anything that isn’t a fact or matter of public record.



Late stage carbon economy. Coal is over, and not coming back, so of course coal barons are getting litigious. It’s right up there with behavior of those who depended on horse transportation towards the automobile industry.


I was pretty sure this would happen, and wish him luck. He’s doing Gods work.


And somehow it’s liberals who get accused of wanting “safe spaces” and trying to suppress free speech.


The fact that he runs a comedy show and not a news program is pretty important too.


May we assume you’re referring to Mr Oliver? :stuck_out_tongue:


Wait, so a West Virginia state court is one of the “nation’s highest courts”? I’m confused.