We kicked off the week with a Last Week Tonight segment about the coal-mining industry, one that earned host John Oliver and his network, HBO, a cease-and-desist letter from one of the leaders in that industry. Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy Corp, had his lawyers fire off the letter in an attempt to prevent Oliver from airing the deep dive into the restoration of coal jobs, and who exactly benefits from that movement. The segment didn’t cast Murray in a flattering light, to say the least; Oliver called him a “geriatric Dr. Evil“ for misrepresenting his track record with coal workers, e.g., Murray’s long-standing opposition to increased safety measures.
Because Oliver and HBO neither ceased nor desisted, Murray’s filed a defamation suit against the host, the network, parent company Time Warner, and the show’s writers. According to The Daily Beast, the suit alleges that Oliver and his staff “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies.” Murray’s lawyers cite his declining health as an exacerbating factor in being unable to deal with this attack on his reputation, which the complaint describes as “one of the staunchest defenders and most ardent champions of the United States coal industry and America itself.”
In addition to claims that the Murray site has been “hacked and inundated with the message incited by Defendants: ‘Eat shit, Bob,’” the complaint includes a few digs at Oliver’s presumed political leanings, referring to segments of “[d]efendants’ broadcasts [which] have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton’s agenda.” The suit also claims that Time Warner “is widely reported as a top ten donor of Hillary Clinton” and that Clinton herself has “an agenda of putting coal miners and companies out of business.”
UPDATED: HBO’s standing by its Englishman, Deadline reports. The premium-cable network issued the following statement: “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.”