John Oliver takes on muzzling lawsuits – and the man who sued his show
On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ripped into frivolous lawsuits meant to silence dissent, an issue with which he has personal experience: two years ago, Last Week Tonight was sued by Bob Murray, the then CEO of Murray Energy, the largest private coal company in America, after the show did a segment highly critical of the coal executive... The lawsuit was... dismissed by a West Virginia court... but Murray appealed the case to the West Virginia supreme court. The case languished there for over a year before Murray dropped it (Murray Energy is also... now reorganizing for bankruptcy).
... “What was the point of him putting us through all of this in the first place?” Oliver asked. “I would argue that winning the case was never really his goal.”... Slapp suits are, Oliver explained, “frivolous suits with no legal merit specifically designed to stifle public debate or dissent... “By cultivating a reputation for being aggressively litigious, Murray may have actually got what he wanted and successfully applied a chokehold to how he is covered.” Oliver pointed to two lawsuits against Murray with serious and corroborated accounts of workplace harassment and misconduct that have been suspiciously underreported in the press... “I would argue that one reason [for the silence] might be that organizations are justifiably wary of getting sued by Murray,” Oliver said, “because even if they are baseless, his lawsuits can do major damage.” The suit against Last Week Tonight cost them over $200,000 in legal fees.