Republican coal baron Robert Murray is suing John Oliver, HBO, Time Warner, and the writers for defamation over Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight. Murray Energy Corp. is the largest coal company in the U.S.
On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver heavily criticized the Trump administration for bringing back the coal industry. He pointed out that coal jobs have dropped for decades and that other energy alternatives are the reason for the coal industry decline.
Oliver also went after Murray Energy’s CEO Robert Murray, who has blamed the Obama administration for damaging the coal industry. He said the 77-year-old looked like a “geriatric Dr. Evil” and noted that the company often mistreated its employees.
When preparing for the segment, Oliver’s staff contacted Murray’s company and received a cease and desist letter in response, in which Oliver included in his broadcast.
“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,” Oliver said during the segment. “I know you’re probably going to sue me over this. But, you know what? I stand by everything I said.”
According to Murray’s company, Oliver tried to embarrass Murray by making fun of his age and appearance. They also said that Oliver made false statements about the 2007 collapse of the mine, where nine miners died. The company noted that Oliver ignored the information that they sent showing that it was an earthquake that caused the collapse of the mine. They also complain that Oliver did not mention “the efforts Mr. Murray personally made to save the trapped miners.”
An HBO spokesperson did not seem concerned by Murray’s suit, noting, “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.”
On the show, Oliver also pointed out that the company has a litigious past and that it sued The New York Times last month for libel.
Interestingly, the segment was recently pulled from Last Week Tonight’s YouTube channel.