John Oliver’s legal tussle with a man he once called a “geriatric Dr. Evil” is over and the HBO late night host has every reason to be happy.
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West Virginia judge Jeffrey Cramer has dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed against Oliver by Robert Murray, the coal baron behind Murray Energy Corp.
Murray, along with his company, had sued HBO in June over a Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment which focused on American coal mining, and took a particularly close look at Murray’s role within that industry.
The (rather hilarious) lawsuit did not come as a surprise to HBO. In that same segment, Oliver revealed that Murray had already sent him a cease-and-desist just for investigating. “I know you are probably going to sue me, but you know what, I stand by everything I said,” he said, addressing Murray through his show.
In his lawsuit, Murray claimed that the “false and defamatory statements in this broadcast severely and destructively impact Mr. Murray, and all of Murray Energy.”
HBO, in turn, has argued that they were within the bounds of free speech: “The fact that Murray found this speech embarrassing or disagreeable does not remove it from the broad protection of the First Amendment.”
The network suffered a setback when a federal judge remanded the case back to West Virginia. Ultimately, however, Cramer sided with HBO, and sent a letter to the attorneys Wednesday notifying them of his decision to dismiss the case.
Oliver’s segment, which is well worth watching in full, took Murray to task for claiming to defend coal workers while doing little to protect their safety.
Meanwhile, Oliver pointed out, the company tried to block a rule aimed at reducing miners’ risk of black lung, and, as determined by the U.S. Labor Department, committed numerous safety violations that contributed to a 2007 mine collapse that killed nine.
Oliver being Oliver, he also seized the opportunity to mock Murray. Toward the end of the segment, he brought up mine workers’ claims that Murray told them a squirrel had told him to start a mining company. (The company claims that the squirrel incident “never occurred.”)
He then brought out a squirrel mascot called Mr. Nutterbutter who told Murray, via an enormous voided check, to “eat shit, Bob” and “kiss my ass.”
This week, Murray and his team metaphorically did just that.