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Article

11 Nov 2019

Author:
Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times

John Oliver roasts litigious coal titan in epic, squirrel-filled musical number

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The number came as Oliver celebrated his legal victory in the defamation lawsuit that Murray brought against him and the Emmy-winning show back in 2017... [S]ince Murray recently dropped the lawsuit, the host... used it as a timely pivot into the topic of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuits... Oliver targeted Murray in a 2017 segment that blasted his company, criticized the standards of the coal industry at large and touched on the company’s long history of threatening litigation against its critics... The coal titan then sued for defamation in 2017, shortly after the segment aired... A judge dismissed the case in 2018 after attorneys for HBO argued that Oliver’s comments were either factual — sourced from various court documents about Murray — or obviously satirical, both of which are protected by the 1st Amendment.

... [Oliver] explained that SLAPP lawsuits are ubiquitous, “frivolous suits with no legal merit, specifically designed to stifle public debate or dissent.” Oliver noted that 30 states have some form of anti-SLAPP laws but West Virginia, where Murray brought his “Last Week Tonight” lawsuit, isn’t one of them... Oliver said that when his producers reached out to Murray about Sunday’s piece, Murray responded in a letter directed to Oliver’s bosses at AT&T and HBO, arguing that none of his lawsuits are SLAPP suits... Oliver then added that we need better anti-SLAPP laws nationwide “to deter powerful people like Bob Murray from using the courts to shut down people’s legitimate dissent.”