John Oliver is facing the legal wrath of a lawsuit-happy coal baron after a brutal segment in which the host tore into the American coal industry.
The document accuses Oliver of a “ruthless character assassination” of Robert Murray, CEO of the nation’s largest coal mining operation, Murray Energy.
It didn’t exactly come as a surprise; in fact, Oliver more or less dared the notoriously litigious coal boss by mocking an earlier cease-and-desist letter from his company on the show. And at least one first amendment lawyer has said Murray doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the absurd spectacle of the legal team for the man Oliver described as a “geriatric Dr. Evil” trying to out-bombast the HBO comedian’s signature hyperbolic wit in dry legalese.
Here are some of the lawsuit’s best moments:
Murray’s giant squirrel tormenter
“Defendants continued their ruthless character assassination and attack on Plaintiffs business reputations by describing Mr. Murray as someone who ‘looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil’ and arranging for a staff member to dress up in a squirrel costume and deliver the message ‘Eat Shit, Bob! to Mr. Murray.'”
This is one of the lawsuit’s several references to a staffer dressed as a giant squirrel whom Oliver brought out to insult Murray. The stunt was a reference to some apocryphal company lore about a squirrel urging Murray into the coal business it’s a long story. Suffice to say, Mr. Nutterbutter seems to have really gotten under Murray’s skin.
BTW Murray didn’t actually talk to a squirrel, OK?
“Specifically, in reference to an absurd story that Mr. Murray claimed a squirrel had told him he should operate his own mines, Defendant Oliver stated ‘You know what, I actually believe him on that one.'”
At least everyone’s in agreement that Murray didn’t actually consult a squirrel about his business decisions. Maybe there’s hope for an amicable resolution yet!
Oliver endorses Mr. Nutterbutter’s vulgar harassment
“If that were not enough, after the live taping, Defendant Oliver exclaimed to the audience that having someone in a squirrel costume tell Mr. Murray to ‘Eat Shit’ was a ‘dream come true.'”
On second thought, he’s got a point. Have you no decency, Mr. Nutterbutter?
Good faith efforts
“Even worse, toward the end of the broadcast, Defendant Oliver confirmed that Defendants intentionally expanded their attack against Mr. Murray and the Plaintiffs as retaliation for Plaintiffs’ good faith efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast. Defendant Oliver stated “Bob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one.”
Murray’s lawyers seem to be working under a loose definition of “good faith efforts” that encompasses cease-and-desist letters.
Neither ceasing nor desisting
“Intentionally and in obvious retaliation for this humanitarian request, Defendant Oliver boldly announced ‘[a]s we have been explicitly told to cease and desist, let us do neither of those things, and let’s talk about Bob Murray.'”
How many lawsuits are able to claim that a defendant explicitly announced their intention to ignore them on national television?
“[HBO parent Time Warner] is widely reported as a top ten donor of Hillary Clinton, as tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics at OpenSecrets.org. As a presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton’s agenda was to ‘put a lotta coal miners and coal companies outta business.'”
Murray’s lawyers have connected the dots. This one goes all the way to the top.
“[The defendant’s statements] advance their biases against the coal industry and their
disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.”
What’s a controversy these days without a Donald Trump cameo?
Oliver’s job description
“Instead, presumably to boost ratings, line their pockets with profits and advance the shows anti-coal agenda…”
The first two items are, after all, Oliver’s job. As for the third, it seems pretty fair to say he’s not a huge fan of the industry’s practices.
Public shame and disgrace
“The Defamatory Statements are defamatory per se in that, on their face, they reflect upon Plaintiffs’ reputation and character in a manner that: injured Plaintiffs’ reputation and subject Plaintiffs to public hatred, ridicule, shame, or disgrace.”
This would actually make a good blurb for Oliver’s show.
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