John Oliver devoted most of last week’s episode of Last Week Tonight to the coal industry and Trump’s empty promises to bring miners’ jobs back, and he took some time to single out Murray Energy Corporation CEO Bob Murray, who sent the show its first cease and desist letter and threatened “immediate litigation” should Oliver’s show “defame, harass, or otherwise injure” him or his company. “I have to proceed with caution. I’m not going to say, for instance, that Bob Murray looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil, even though he clearly does,” Oliver said before noting that Murray’s company has a well-documented past of suing everyone from The New York Times to numerous local newspapers. “So, as we have been told explicitly to cease and desist, let us do neither of those things, and let’s talk about Bob Murray.”
The segment ended with Oliver and a man dressed up in a squirrel costume who addresses the possibility of getting sued by Murray Energy and ultimately tells Murray to “eat shit” – a reference to what one Murray Energy miner wrote on their check in response to a bonus program Murray promoted that put profits over employee safety. (You can watch the full segment above.)
Sure enough, Bob Murray filed a lawsuit in West Virginia against Oliver’s show yesterday, claiming he’s the victim of “ruthless character assassination” and that the show “obviously and grossly overstated the actual conclusions” when recapping an accident that killed nine miners working for Murray’s company in Utah. You can read the full lawsuit over at The Daily Beast, where one lawyer called it mostly “frivolous and vexatious.” Here’s a fun excerpt:
Even the squirrel story was addressed. Yep, Bob went there:
HBO has defended Last Week Tonight with the below 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.