Upon finding out that your Trump-friendly coal company is being featured on an upcoming episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, one might think that a strongly worded legal threat to sue said show and its cheeky British host into smithereens “all the way to the Supreme Court” is a good idea. And it is, if you want Oliver and his team of political comedy professionals to double down on reporting the unsavory, hypocritical, and downright shady stuff you get up to. That’s the mistake that one Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp and, according to Oliver, “geriatric Dr. Evil,” made when informed that Oliver was going to look at how Donald Trump’s vote-grubbing on the issue of restoring coal jobs was as disingenuous as much of the coal industry’s rhetoric to its workers.
Kicking off the Murray Energy portion of his coal report by saying “I’m going to need to be careful here,” Oliver, unsurprisingly, launched into a decidedly incautious (if undoubtedly heavily vetted by HBO legal) examination of how the camera-loving Murray’s track record revels in a suspiciously Trump-esque (aka bullshit) assertion that what’s good for coal company CEOs is good for coal company employees. Citing facts like Trump’s convenient avoidance of the roles increased automation, alternative energy, and lower natural gas prices have in the century-long decrease in coal jobs (preferring to blame President Obama and his pesky environmental and worker safety regulations), Oliver showed also how Murray’s similarly “all for one” company line ignores his long history of opposing worker safety measures, even to the extent that he berated grieving workers’ families to exonerate Murray Energy of any wrongdoing while their miner relatives were still buried in a mine collapse. In response to one incentive-driven wage measure, some Murray employees notably returned their bonus checks with rude messages on them, rather than endanger workers’ lives. (Oliver also points to Murray’s opposition to health regulations intended to prevent “black lung,” Trump’s budget cutting programs designed to retrain laid-off miners, and his Playboy interview in which he explicitly insulted coal miners’ collective character as further examples of these two men having lumps of coal where their consciences should be.)
Whether Bob Murray—who’s also sued the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and several local papers in attempts to counter negative reporting—will take Oliver and HBO to court remains to be seen. However, Oliver, relying here as he does on court and government documents and witness testimony, seems to be digging on solid ground—and that’s before Mr. Nutterbutter shows up. Playing off an apocryphally folksy Murray Energy tale about a talking squirrel being the impetus for Bob Murray’s mining business, Oliver brought out his own giant squirrel mascot and asserted that he, indeed, agrees with the company’s response that that whole talking squirrel thing never, ever happened. However Mr. Nutterbutter (for such is his name) did bring an oversized check just in case, complete with a very coal miner-like message to go along with the implied, “Just don’t fuck with John Oliver.”