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Will the Defamation Lawsuit against John Oliver Destroy Him?
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Summary: A billionaire businessman has sued John Oliver for defamation, and Mashable examined whether or not Oliver may suffer Gawker’s fate.

It’s never wise to cross someone with unlimited funds. Just ask Gawker, the tabloid website that outed billionaire investor Peter Thiel who years later funded a lawsuit that bankrupted the company.

  
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While those in the media and especially comedy feel compelled to share their truth with a large audience, sometimes their words can come back to haunt them…and cost them. Recently, comedian John Oliver crossed his own billionaire, coal magnate Robert Murray. Murray sued Oliver in June after the host ran a segment on his program Last Week Tonight on HBO.

Oliver said that Murray had failed to protect coal miners in Utah who worked for his company, 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.”

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Murray said that the coal mine had collapsed due to an earthquake, not from his negligence, and he sued Oliver for defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The case will be heard on Murray’s home turf, the state of West Virginia, and Mashable said, “This is bad for Oliver.”

Mashable noted that Oliver had tried to move the case to a federal court but had failed. The publication said that state courts were where media companies had a harder time of winning, and Mashable‘s writer Jason Abruzzese noted how the Hulk Hogan case against Gawker has set a precedent that should scare Oliver and his team.



In 2012, wrestler Hulk Hogan, financially backed by Thiel, sued Gawker after it published a sex tape between him and his friend’s wife. Although the tape was real and Hogan is a celebrity, Hogan was successfully able to argue that his privacy was violated and that showing the tape was malicious and not news.

A Florida jury awarded Hogan over $100 million, and Gawker eventually was able to negotiate the price to almost $30 million. Regardless of the amount, the case bankrupted the website and sent the message to not mess with Peter Theil.

Murray seems intent on sending a similar message. According to Mashable, he is litigious and has sued The New York Times. Mashable said that Murray has an advantage in his home state, and West Virginia, like Florida, does not have anti-SLAPP laws which tend to protect people’s free speech from being met with lawsuits.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that Murray’s case is meritless, but Mashable stated that even if the billionaire were not to win, he could easily cost Oliver time and money, an annoyance just as valuable as an actual victory.

What do you think of Murray’s lawsuit against John Oliver? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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