On Sunday, John Oliver was finally able to talk about a lawsuit brought against him and HBO in West Virginia by coal tycoon Bob Murray following a story Last Week Tonight With John Oliver aired about the coal industry in 2017 — and Oliver didn’t hide how he felt about the lawsuit.
“Now, obviously, the lawsuit was a bulls**t effort to silence us,” Oliver said.
In the lawsuit, according to Oliver, Murray listed what he found objectionable, including being compared to a geriatric Dr. Evil, the villain in the Austin Powers movies. Oliver also said that Murray claimed that nothing had stressed him out more than the “vicious and untruthful attack” in the story before pointing out that Murray oversaw a company whose mine collapsed in Utah resulting in the deaths of nine people. Oliver claimed that Murray’s lawyers also filed a motion to prohibit HBO from re-airing the story, and asked that it be taken off the internet. But, of course, that didn’t happen.
The case was dismissed in February of last year but Murray appealed to the state supreme court. This worried Oliver because in 2015 he made fun of one of the judges on the show, but in a bizarre twist of fate, that judge never heard the case. In August 2018, the entire West Virginia Supreme Court was impeached in a scandal over inappropriate spending. Oliver said the case just wound up sitting there for over a year until Murray finally dropped the lawsuit.
Even though he won, Oliver said the case still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the show’s libel insurance premiums tripled. In a win however, it was ruled that the Dr. Evil joke was protected by the First Amendment, which means other jokes at Murray’s expense are also protected as free speech. The result was an over four-minute-long song at the end of the show full of NSFW jabs at Murray that is definitely worth checking out.
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