Energy

Judge Dismisses Coal Tycoon’s Defamation Lawsuit Against HBO Comedian

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A West Virginia judge dismissed a lawsuit coal mogul Robert Murray leveled against HBO host John Oliver after the comedian lampooned him for opposing former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Judge Jeffrey Cramer accepted HBO’s argument earlier this week that the Murray Energy CEO failed to show that Oliver had defamed him according to the law. Murray sued Oliver for defamation of character in 2017 over jokes the comedian made at his expense.

“Cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy,” Murray’s letter said, according to Oliver, who hosts HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” “Failure to do so will result in immediate litigation.”

He devoted an extended segment in June 2017 to blasting Murray’s opposition to Obama’s environmental regulations. Oliver compared the West Virginia coal icon to Dr. Evil, the primary villain in the 1990s comedy, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”

“If you even appear to be on the same side as black lung, you’re on the wrong f—ing side,” Oliver said about one of Murray’s lawsuits, filed against an Obama-era federal rule designed to beef-up safety precautions in mines. Murray suffers from a pulmonary disease from decades in the mines.

Murray Energy other coal producers have consistently characterized the former president’s regulations as oppressive and harmful to working people. Murray campaigned for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election after the president positioned himself as the pro-coal candidate.

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The coal king has sued media outlets in the past for similar reasons. Murray Energy filed a lawsuit against The New York Times’ editorial board in April 2017, arguing the paper falsely claimed Murray lied when he insisted the collapse of his Crandall Canyon mine in 2007 was because of an earthquake, not poor safety measures.

Data show that an earthquake triggered the collapse, which killed three additional people attempting to rescue the miners, the company wrote in a May 3, 2017, statement announcing the lawsuit. Federal prosecutors were unable to directly connect safety violations to the mine’s collapse, the company noted.

Murray Energy’s lawsuit stems from a graph within an April New York Times editorial claiming that Murray “earned infamy when he falsely insisted that the 2007 collapse of his Crandall Canyon mine, which killed six miners, was due to an earthquake, not dodgy mining practices.”

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