John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” decided to dedicate a large portion of his Sunday broadcast to mocking a coal company that sent him a cease-and-desist letter, resulting in a lawsuit being filed against the network.
“The false and defamatory statements in this broadcast severely and destructively impact Mr. Murray … as well as coal mining itself,” Murray Energy Corp. said in a news release. The self-proclaimed largest privately owned coal company in the U.S. has previously filed lawsuits against the media, including a recent defamation suit against The New York Times.
According to The Daily Beast, the current lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the circuit court of Marshall County, W.Va., alleging a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character” of CEO Bob Murray, “a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case,” and his companies. The case also claims that Murray’s health degraded following the broadcast of Oliver’s latest show and that his website was hacked.
During his Sunday show, Oliver noted that they asked Murray Energy Corp. for comment on the segment that was being planned and received a cease-and-desist letter warning against any efforts to “defame, harass, or otherwise injure” Murray or the company.
A Washington Examiner report stated “That only emboldened Oliver, who said the segment, which was focused on the coal industry and promises made to it by President Trump, originally wasn’t originally going to spend much time focusing on Murray or his company. That didn’t end up being the case.”
“I have to proceed with caution,” Oliver said during his Sunday show. “I’m not going to say, for instance, that Bob Murray looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil, even though he clearly does.”
Later in the segment, Oliver invited a person dressed up as a squirrel onstage to address a potential lawsuit (Murray allegedly had a conversation with a squirrel, although his company denies the report).
“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,'” said the squirrel, named “Mr. Nutterbutter.”
HBO released a statement in which it stood by Oliver:
“While we have not seen the complaint, 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.”
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