John Oliver predicted, Robert E. Murray has filed a lawsuit in response to the Last Week Tonight host’s June 18 show about coal that devoted a large segment skewering the Murray Energy Corporation CEO.
The suit was filed on June 21 in the circuit court of Marshall County, West Virginia. The complaint claims that the British comedian and his team “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies.”
“Worse yet, Defendants employed techniques designed solely to embarrass Plaintiffs, including Mr. Murray, a seventy-seven year old citizen in ill health and dependent on an oxygen tank for survival, who, despite the forgoing, continuously devotes his life, including by working seven days each week, to save the jobs and better the lives of the thousands of coal miners that he employs in West Virginia and elsewhere,” the complaint states.
The complaint also said Murray’s website “was hacked and inundated with the message incited by Defendants: ‘Eat shit, Bob.'” In case you haven’t seen the show, at the end of airing, a man in a squirrel costume joined Oliver onstage with a missive at Murray: “Hey, Bob. Just wanted to say, if you plan on suing, I do not have a billion dollars. But I do have a check for three acorns and 18 cents … it’s made out to ‘Eat Shit, Bob.'”
To be fair, Oliver practically welcomed the lawsuit. He pointed out during the episode that Murray is particularly litigious. His team also sent Last Week Tonight a cease-and-desist letter before the episode aired.
The segment compared Murray to “a geriatric Dr. Evil” and portrayed how his companies were not doing enough to protect its workers’ safety in light of its 2007 Utah mine disaster in which nine people were killed. Murray insists the collapse occurred because of an earthquake but government investigators say it was caused by unauthorized mining practices.
The complaint alleges that Oliver’s team ignored studies that supported the coal boss’ argument.
“Because Defendant Oliver omitted any mention of the other reports he was aware of that evidenced that an earthquake caused the collapse, as Mr. Murray correctly stated following the collapse, Defendant Oliver’s presentation intentionally and falsely implied that there is no such evidence,” it said.
The lawsuit claims the show’s “callous, vicious and false” segment about Murray ignored facts and advances “biases against the coal industry” and disdain for Trump’s pro-coal policies.
“Since the date of the broadcast, and due to the stress and physical damage caused by the malicious and defamatory conduct of Defendants, and resulting misconduct of others incited by Defendants’ conduct, Mr. Murray’s health has significantly worsened, likely further reducing his already limited life expectancy,” the lawsuit concludes. “No reasonable person could be expected to endure the emotional distress and physical damage that Mr. Murray has suffered as a result of Defendant’s conduct.”