You may have read about John Oliver being sued (along with HBO and Time-Warner) by the very litigious Bob Murray of Murray Energy over a long segment that the comedian did on the coal industry.
Good news for you! We have it here below.
Among the issues that Mr. Murray sued were Last Week Tonight's "intentionally, falsely, and outrageously" erroneous claims that Murray had no evidence that an earthquake caused a mining disaster, and that the show ignored other evidence and used quotes out of context. It should be noted that the evidence Oliver does present is a U.S. government study that says an earthquake did not cause the mine collapse.
The show also presents an outrageously funny story on how Murray Energy was founded -- a story that the company insists is not true...though the story comes from Murray himself, and Oliver repeatedly says he too does not believe the story.
The suit contends, as well, that the show presented "meticulously planned" and "ruthless character assassination" for financial gain and to hurt his mining company.
Watching the segment, these appear to be massive hurdles to prove, though no doubt they'll provide their side or the argument. But given that Oliver and Company knew going in that Murray was highly litigious (as the host explains) and that they had even received a "cease and desist" letter before airing the piece, I suspect they were incredibly careful to get their i's dotted and t's very-well crossed, and vet the thing through corporate lawyers and then re-vet it.
Besides which, it would seem they made it more difficult to prove damages to the business and Mr. Murray himself since they sued only days after the piece appeared. Add to that the burden that, as much as Last Week Tonight presents material in a news-story way, at heart they are a satiric comedy show which, while it doesn't let them off the hook at all, does provide a much, much much higher bar to prove damage, especially against a public figure -- which Mr. Murray is through his many TV and public appearances.
HBO has released a statement standing by the program. After watching the piece, it's easy to see why.
And not only is it very strong, it's also extremely funny. And in the best tradition of Last Week Tonight, do be sure to stick around and watch to the very end.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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