Robert E. Murray, founder and chief executive of Murray Energy, the largest privately held coal mining company in the US, is suing John Oliver, HBO, Time Warner, and the writers of the “Last Week Tonight” show over an episode on the coal mining industry that aired on Sunday night.
Murray’s suit, filed on Wednesday in West Virginia, claims that host Oliver, the show’s writers, HBO, and Time Warner executed “a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies” by broadcasting the segment that heavily criticized the coal industry and Murray, the Daily Beast reported.
The suit goes on saying the defendants “did this to a man who needs a lung transplant, a man who does not expect to live to see the end of this case,” but nonetheless a man who “has built a strong reputation as one of the as one of the staunchest defenders and most ardent champions of the United States coal industry and America itself.”
Olivier knew a lawsuit was a strong possibility. During the episode, which has now been taken down, he said that when his team contacted Murray Energy for the piece, the company replied with a letter asking them to “cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy,” adding that failure to do so would result “in immediate litigation.”
The comedian even called Murray, 77, a “geriatric Dr. Evil” and said the businessman treated his employees poorly, UPROXX reports.
This is not the first very public lawsuit Murray Energy files against those it considers to be jeopardizing the future of the coal industry. In 2015, the company sued the Obama administration itself over new ozone standards it claimed would harm the sector even further.
Coal production in the US has fallen dramatically over the past few years and today’s higher prices may not translate into a reversal of this trend. American coal production in 2016 was 746m tonnes, down from over a 1B tons in 2014 according to EIA estimates. Coal consumption fell over the same period from 917m to 737m tons, while coal exports nearly halved to 58m tons.