John Oliver, Muzzled by Lawyers, Won’t Address Republican Coal King’s Lawsuit on ‘Last Week Tonight’

HBO host said he’ll have to wait until the case is over to comment about it on air.


Last Sunday, the main segment of John Oliver’s HBO show Last Week Tonight was dedicated to the coal industry—in particular, how President Trump has exploited the coal industry (and by extension, coal miners) for political points.

During the piece, Oliver reserved some of his harshest criticism for Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., who he said “looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil.” Oliver took aim at Murray’s business practices, including the ways he treats his workers, as well as the 2007 collapse of one of Murray’s mines in Utah, which resulted in the death of nine people. Murray has repeatedly claimed that an earthquake caused the tragedy, but Oliver begged to differ. The comedian seemed even to anticipate a lawsuit, referencing how Murray and his company had “forced my hand” by firing off a cease-and-desist letter to HBO. “I know you are probably going to sue me, but you know what? I stand by everything I said,” offered Oliver.

Well, Murray did sue. In news first published by Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast, Murray filed suit against HBO, Time Warner, and the writers of Last Week Tonight on June 21 in Marshall County, West Virginia. The Murray Energy honcho alleged that Oliver and Co. “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies,” and even took issue with the Dr. Evil crack, claiming, “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.’”

On the June 25 edition of Last Week Tonight, Oliver sorta addressed the lawsuit filed by Murray at the top of the program.

“Look, before we begin: You may remember last week we did a story about coal,” said Oliver. “It turns out that one of the coal companies’ CEOs that we mentioned was not particularly thrilled with how the piece turned out.”

Oliver then threw to a montage of media segments covering Murray’s lawsuit against HBO concerning the Last Week Tonight segment, which ended with the satirist welcoming a person in a squirrel suit called “Mr. Nutter Butter”—a nod to a satirical article published on the United Mine Workers’ website saying that, after Murray parted ways with North American Coal in 1987, “Murray felt depressed about the situation and sat on his back porch contemplating his future when a squirrel hopped up next to him, looked him in the eye and said, ‘Bob Murray, you should be operating your very own mines,’” reported Deseret News. Mr. Nutter Butter proceeded to serve Bob with a check for “three acorns and 18 cents” that was made out to “Eat shit, Bob!”

“It’s true,” Oliver continued. “We are currently being sued by Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy. I desperately want to talk to you about this tonight, but our lawyers have suggested that the court be the venue where we work this out. And I do get that, but I promise we will tell you all about this as soon as it is over. And of course, Mr. Nutter Butter will get his chance to tell his side of the story, too.”