Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corporation takes his mining company and his reputation very, very seriously. It is for this reason that said CEO had his lawyers send a “cease and desist” letter to cable comedian and political commentator John Oliver after learning that Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, would focus on the coal industry and his company, in particular. On of Murray Energy’s mines collapsed in 2007 and this past year, Murray has appeared on numerous television shows to promote his friend, Donald Trump (Oliver’s favourite target) and the mining industry.
Now if that isn’t waving a giant red flag in front of a bull while singing “Na, na, na-na, naa”, I don’t know what is.
So on Sunday night, Oliver charged and Murray’s lawyers retaliated. John Oliver, his writers, HBO and Time Warner (because they have more money) are being sued for defamation. The suits claims that Oliver "executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies." Furthermore, they say the show has damaged his already failing health and will likely kill him.
Hoo-kay. Mr. Oliver, hats off to you, sir. That’s some power.
Murray has sued many news agencies for similar transgressions. And the implosion of “fake news,” Russian hacking, and “alternative facts” has certainly made it hard to know what to believe. But Oliver’s show is not a news program. I repeat: Not a news program. It takes points from news stories and gives them a comedic perspective. (Note: news programs don’t usually include audience laughter.)
Much of what Oliver questioned were Murray’s televised comments versus employee testimony and published formal reports after the Crandall Mine collapse. Murray’s legal team says Oliver ignored the various documents which they personally supplied.
Instead, his team chose to reference the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s 472-page official report. The MSHA contradicted Murray’s claim that an earthquake caused the collapse and cited numerous structural and procedure failures by the company that all-but guaranteed a collapse.
Oliver also shared a story from the United Mine Workers of America Journal that claimed a talking squirrel told Murray to start his company. Of course, Oliver agreed, it likely did not happen. But later, he did invite a giant squirrel on the set who told Murray to “eat sh_t” — which was apparently a coded directive for viewers to crank call the CEO and hack the company’s website with a similar message.
So obviously Robert Murray is suing. Oliver used Murray’s own words against him. He used official reports to contradict him. He used a giant squirrel for comedic effect.
He called him “Bob.”
And according to the suit, "nothing has ever stressed [Murray] more."
Nothing. Not the mine collapse. Not six employees dying. Not laying off hundreds of employees or cutting health benefits. Nothing.
Maybe it was a hatchet job. Maybe Murray was unjustly targeted. But given Oliver’s well-documented “alternative facts,” Murray’s better off going after the squirrel.