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Coal Magnate Robert Murray Sues John Oliver and HBO
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Summary: A coal mine owner is suing comedian, John Oliver, for criticizing his business in a TV segment that aired last week. 

John Oliver is well-known for his funny political criticism, but one bigwig didn’t find the British comic’s bit very funny.


On Wednesday, coal magnate Robert Murray sued John Oliver, the writers of his show Last Week Tonight, HBO, and Time Warner, The Daily Beast reported. Oliver had presented a blistering segment about Murray and how he allegedly failed to protect his coal miners in Utah, and Murray said that his character had been assassinated.

“[Oliver and his staff] executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies,” the lawsuit said. “They did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case.”

Murray is suing for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He had come under Oliver’s scrutiny when one of his mines in Utah recently collapsed. Nine workers were killed, and Oliver said that Murray was responsible.

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Murray said that it is public knowledge that the mine collapsed due to an earthquake. However, a government report did not verify this claim. Instead, the report said the collapse was due to mining practices, according to Rolling Stone. 

Oliver’s team had contacted Murray prior to the segment’s airing for his statement, and the coal entrepreneur responded with a cease and desist letter that was ignored. In his segment, Oliver predicted that Murray would sue him, acknowledging Murray’s history of suing any media outlet that had the nerve to write unflattering pieces about his businesses.

In his lawsuit, Murray said that Oliver was a bully who was attacking a dying man, and he also alleged that Oliver is pursuing a liberal agenda. Murray, a staunch Donald Trump supporter, noted that Oliver has endorsed Trump’s 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton in the past.

HBO has already responded to the lawsuit, stating they supported Oliver and his show.

“While we have not seen the complaint, we have confidence in the staff ofLast Week Tonight and do not believe anything in the show this week violated Mr. Murray’s or Murray Energy’s rights,” HBO said.

Ken White, a First Amendment litigation attorney at Brown White & Osborn LLP, told The Daily Beast that he also believed Murray’s suit was without merit.

“Overall I’d say it appears frivolous and vexatious. Any core of merit is buried in nonsense,” White said. “It does arguably cite one or two statements (like the bit about earthquakes) that could possibly be defamatory, since they involve fact. But for the most part the section describing the purportedly false statements is rambling and semi-coherent, mixing fact with opinion and insult.”

What do you think about Robert Murray’s lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.


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