John Oliver Sued by Coal Magnate Over ‘Last Week Tonight’ Segment

Murray Energy Corporation CEO, who Oliver called Dr. Evil, files defamation suit.

June 22, 2017 11:03 am
John Oliver
John Oliver, host of the upcoming HBO show Last Week Tonight, sits for a portrait in HBO headquarters New York, NY in 2014. (Photo by Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post via Getty Images.)

There’s one viewer who definitely wasn’t laughing at Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight in which host John Oliver skewered Murray Energy Corporation and its controversial CEO Robert E. Murray—the coal magnate himself.

Three days after the episode aired, Murray’s lawyers filed a defamation lawsuit in West Virginia circuit court against Oliver, HBO and parent company Time Warner, The Washington Post reported.

The suit accuses Oliver of carrying out a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray.

Among the accusations: That the British-born comic broadcast intentionally misleading “biases against the coal industry” and “disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.”

The company claims it provided Oliver’s writers with information refuting some of the aired claims. Murray and his company, for example, have stated that an earthquake triggered that 2007 collapse of the Crandall Canyon Mine, which killed nine miners.

As he warned in Sunday’s episode: “I’m going to need to be careful here, because when we contacted Murray Energy for this piece, they sent us a letter instructing us to ‘cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy.’”

From there Oliver launched into a 24-minute segment slamming U.S. coal policy and the company’s record in a deadly 2007 mine accident in Utah blamed on safety violations—a piece that somehow ended with a man dressed as a giant squirrel.

“I know you’re probably going to sue me over this. But, you know what? I stand by everything I said,” Oliver said in closing.

The lawsuit, which seeks both financial damages and an injunction on future airings of the episode, also claims emotional distress.

See the contentious Last Week Tonight segment below: (Warning: Graphic language)

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