John Oliver knew perfectly well on June 18 when he ridiculed the CEO of Murray Energy Corporation as a “geriatric Dr. Evil” and more that there could be legal blowback, but the Last Week Tonight host drilled in anyway. Now, with a defamation suit filed in West Virginia yesterday against Oliver, HBO and Time Warner by Robert E. Murray and a number of his coal companies, the host’s bosses are staking their own claim in his defense.
“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,” said HBO in a statement today about the trial jury seeking complaint that alleges a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of the energy titan and his various companies.
“Bob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one,” the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver host said on-air Sunday in a scathing and squirrel-centric segment about the litigious Murray, his business, safety standards and the state of the coal industry (watch the video above to see). “And I know you’re probably going to sue me over this. But, you know what? I stand by everything I said.”
Well, claiming “this callous, vicious, and false attack upon Mr. Murray and his companies was Defendants’ most recent attempt to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration,” sue the self declared “ill-health” 77-year old coal boss did – as he has The New York Times, the Huffington Post and others in the past several years.
Postulating that “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,” the Grove, Holmstrand & Delek, PLLC lawyers for the “lung transplant” requiring Murray, the Murray Energy Company and more are seeking a wide range of damages “to be determined at trial” as well as an injunction essentially erasing the June 18 segment from being broadcast again or seen at all.
And they are alleging they were set up by the HBO satirical show.
“When Defendants made Mr. Murray and the other Plaintiffs aware that they intended to advance their anti-coal agenda by, among other things, broadcasting injurious, false, and defamatory statements to millions of people on June 18, 2017, Mr. Murray and the other Plaintiffs, at Defendants’ invitation (believed to have been extended under the guise of responsible and ethical journalism), transmitted-prior to the June 18, 2017 broadcast information and facts directly contrary to the injurious, false, and defamatory statements that Defendants threatened to broadcast,” the complaint first reported by the Daily Beast states (read it here)
“But instead of reporting on the facts, including those facts which Defendants secured through their (what turned out to be) disingenuous outreach to Mr. Murray and his companies before the June 18, 2017 broadcast, Defendants ignored them and ‘doubled-down’ on their character assassination of Mr. Murray and the business reputation of his companies, ending their recorded broadcast with the phrases ‘Eat Sh*t, Bob’ and ‘Kiss my ass, Bob,’” the 24-page filing in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, West Virginia bluntly recollects.
Doubtless HBO and Time Warner attorneys have told Oliver not to mention this on this week’s show but we’ll see what gets dug up in the courts going forward – or if President Donald Trump tweets his way into the situation.