Coal CEO Threatens John Oliver With A SLAPP Suit

from the not-a-good-idea dept

This past weekend on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, he took on the issue of “coal” and some politicians’ obsession with coal jobs as the only true “American” jobs. The whole segment is interesting, but obviously not the kind of thing we’d normally write up. What we do frequently write about, however, is censorious threats, often from wealthy execs, designed to try to silence people from commenting on issues regarding those doing the threatening. And, it appears that’s exactly what happened with coal exec Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, when he found out that John Oliver was doing a segment that included some bits about Murray.

I recommend watching the whole thing, but the parts about Murray include a brief bit around 4:45 in the video and then a much longer section starting around 12:30 in the video, where Oliver notes:

I’m going to need to be careful here, because when we contacted Murray Energy for this piece, they sent us a letter instructing us to “cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy” and telling us that “failure to do so will result in immediate litigation…”

Oliver notes that this is the first cease & desist his show has received (which he agrees is incredible). Oliver also points out that Murray has, in fact, been known to follow through on these threats — suing the NY Times, a contributor to the Huffington Post and more. Many of these lawsuits appear to be fairly classic SLAPP suits, in which the lawsuits against reporters and journalism outfits are designed to try to silence them. Thankfully, Oliver and HBO have good lawyers who clearly know Oliver’s rights to talk about, criticize and satirize Murray — and Oliver then spends the next ten or so minutes doing so (hilariously), even to the point of involving a talking squirrel (you need to watch it yourself to understand why it makes sense). He also notes this at the end:

Bob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kinda forced my hand on that one. And I know you’re probably going to sue me over this. But, you know what? I stand by everything I said.

Kudos to Oliver for taking a principled stand here for free speech on an important issue. Of course, Oliver has HBO and its lawyers to back him up, but it sure would be a hell of a lot easier if we had strong anti-SLAPP laws to protect him. So, once again, this is why we need a strong federal anti-SLAPP law, not to mention better state-level anti-SLAPP laws. Bob Murray appears to be based in Ohio, which (lucky him) appears to have no anti-SLAPP law, while I believe John Oliver is in NY, which has an incredibly weak anti-SLAPP law.

Perhaps, sometime soon, John Oliver can take on the need for stronger anti-SLAPP laws.

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Companies: hbo, murray energy

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Comments on “Coal CEO Threatens John Oliver With A SLAPP Suit”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Geo Restriction

So what? There’s always some lawyer-explanation one can point to, but it’s not like they signed that contract before Youtube was popular. They always knew this was going to screw foreigners over.

Isn’t “The uploader has not made this video available in your country” basically a lie though? The problem is not that they failed to do something, but that they took specific action to limit the viewership. The default is that anyone can see a video.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Kinda torn

Coal is about the only thing keeping my electric bill down. There’s two plants where I live – a natural gas plant, and a coal plant run by the Navajo. The natural gas folks in-state have been working really hard to shut down the coal plant for “environmental reasons”. Earlier this year, the state announced they were going to shut down the coal plant (not renew the license to buy their electricity, having the effect of shutting down the coal plant). The natural gas plant IMMEDIATELY doubled their prices, and electric bills here went through the roof. I guess enough “important people” complained and the state actually renewed the contract for a minimum of two years. The electric bill dropped back to normal. Guess the idiots at the natural gas plant learned their lesson – wait until AFTER the contract expires to double your prices! 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Kinda torn

That or the state regulators are idiots for not planning ahead and having an infrastructure capable of importing energy, not having sufficient anti-trust to leverage a case or not having price-regulation incentivising diversity sufficiently to avoid the price hike (solar cells on houses, windmills and several other very scalable productions are a thing. Or central techniques in waste reduction methods like biogas from ie. landfill or straight up garbage incineration.).

In this case the politicians need to plan 10+ years ahead and prepare a solution before the problem occurs. Energy companies using a near-monopoly on an essential service to squeeze people is not exactly new or unforeseeable (Enron cough).

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Kinda torn

Watch the Oliver segment linked ify ou think coal is keeping your electric bill down.

Bottom line, there’s 2 main things killing coal miner jobs. One is increased automation (7 whole workers can now do ‘mountain top removal’ to harvest as much coal as it took hundreds in a coal mine in the past).

The other thing killing coal jobs is that it’s just not that economical anymore compared to many alternative sources. Natural gas is the biggest alternate fuel thing that’s hurt coal at the moment.

rangda (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why do you find this amazing? People will always believe someone that tells them what they want to hear. If you live in a coal town you have the following choices:

  1. mine coal
  2. sell stuff to people that mine coal
  3. figure out something else you might want to do, get the money (which you don’t have) to get the required education, and move somewhere else to do it.

Number 3 is pretty scary for a lot of people, so when someone tells them its all going to be fine and they can keep doing numbers 1 and 2 of course they believe them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is a very basic instinct: The unknown is always scary. We are conservative creatures by nature.

Some US versus THEM rhetorics in catchy language can go a long way in creating fanatics for “the cause”! The problem with fanatics is the despair when the subject of their affection is gone or the common cause is abandoned.

That is a problem Trump has created and as unruly the stupid liberals have been since the election, that is only the beginning. The stupid conservatives will enter the fray either in a revolt against politicians in general or in a war against democracy when their beloved leader cannot stay in power…

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: It's Not Just "shady BS.." It's a Charge of Murder.

In mining, where someone does something wrong, someone else usually gets killed. And that is what this case is about. It’s about Crandall Canyon, of course, a mine belonging to Murray where there was a disaster in 2007. Eight miners were killed, and also a government inspector who was engaged on rescue operations. The federal government found that the cause of the disaster was greed-inspired recklessness on the part of the owner, and assessed a fine of more than a million dollars.

Murray cannot run away from his own blood-guilt, however far he runs– or whoever he sues. It is only necessary to read the Federal findings into the court record, and it’s a case of Damages of One Penny.



Ummm!… you know, this story reminds me of a similar matter…
In addition to Trump FAILING to sue CNN for CNN’s refusal to air Trump’s “PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT (the which, Trump would LOSE!… as he could be shown to have attempted a violation of the CONSTITUTIONALLY SANCTIONED Security of the Person of Americans!)”, he has also FAILED to “legally challenge” an “alleged victim” at, h-t-t-p://www(dot)huffingtonpost(dot)com/lisa-bloom/why-the-new-child-rape-ca_b_10619944(dot)html, for an allegation of C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E!… and to sue alleged “FAUX NEWSERS”, that/ which have “falsly reported” the said C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E TALE! Thus, how can ANYONE– i.e., of G-O-O-D C-O-N-S-C-I-E-N-C-E!– trust a wanna- be Prez who screams “FAUX NEWS”, “FAUX NEWS”, “FAUX NEWS”!… and would sue his neighbor’s housecat if given the chance!… but would “clam up” tighter than a Contestant’s crotch on a segment of his The Apprentice, when challenged on his F-A-I-L-U-R-E to go after the I-L-L-E-G-A-L-I-T-Y, O-F A C-L-A-I-M O-F C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E! The reason, is ABUNDANTLY CLEAR!… T-H-E C-L-A-I-M I-S L-E-G-I-T!… A-N-D J-A-M-E-S C-O-M-E-Y, T-R-U-M-P– A-N-D T-R-U-M-P-‘-S “W-I-F-E”!– K-N-O-W I-T!
Chris Wray, If the allegation of C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E against Donald Trump is C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L and T-O-R-T-I-O-U-S!… and, proffered by a “FAUX VICTIM”* and “FAUX MEDIA”!… then will you– as the new FBI Director (who has been Appointed by a “President” who is in a C-L-E-A-R CONFLICT OF INTEREST in making the Appointment!)!– be going after this “FAUX VICTIM” for proffering C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L A-N-D T-O-R-T-I-O-U-S C-L-A-I-M-S O-F C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E, and, will you be going after the FAUX NEWSERS for spreading C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L A-N-D T-O-R-T-I-O-U-S F-A-U-X N-E-W-S O-F C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E? Chris Wray, will you uphold your D-U-T-Y to protect America’s children, and American families? Otherwise!… it’s hard to rationalize why the FBI would leave the alleged Trump victim “HIGH AND DRY (e.g., she withdrew her filing on Nov 4, 2016, due to said fears for her life!… stated her counsel!)”!… and conversely, would fail to go after this FAUX VICTIM for C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L-L-Y A-N-D T-O-R-T-I-O-U-S-L-Y giving false testimony re an allegation of C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E on the one hand, and, would fail to go after FAUX NEWESERS for reporting C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E on the other! And, how does that absence of FBI D-U-T-Y even make sense? And, why would one believe– should one believe!– that the FBI is S-O-O-O-O I-N-C-O-M-P-E-T-E-N-T that it would either fail to protect a victim of C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E (F-O-R W-H-I-C-H, T-H-E-R-E C-A-N B-E N-O M-O-R-A-T-O-R-I-U-M!)!… or fail to go after A FAKE VICTIM who has alleged such a claim, and fail to go after FAUX NEWSERS which have reported same! A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E! And in Huffington Post’s report of Trump’s C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E charges, there was SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE for a judge to ratify the sending of the matter to a court for adjudication by Dec 28, 2016! And, so!… if the victim was P-A-I-D O-F-F, W-E S-H-O-U-L-D K-N-O-W A-B-O-U-T I-T!… A-N-D I-F H-U-S-H M-O-N-E-Y W-A-S O-F-F-E-R-E-D U-P A-N-D R-E-C-E-I-V-E-D, T-H-E-N T-H-E V-I-C-T-I-M A-N-D D-O-N-A-L-D T-R-U-M-P S-H-O-U-L-D B-E C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L-L-Y C-H-A-R-G-E-D! The victim, for R-E-C-E-I-V-I-N-G A B-R-I-B-E!… and he, for O-F-F-E-R-I-N-G A B-R-I-B-E, and for C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E!
Lastly… Chris Wray, will you be going after Donald Trump for releasing Classified information?
Please!… no emails!
P.S.: Given the VERACITY of the allegation of C-H-I-L-D R-A-P-E/ C-H-I-L-D A-B-U-S-E!… and Comey’s ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of this!… should Comey’s KNOWLEDGE soon pose an “indirect threat” to “certain” White House interests (e.g., if Comey decides to accept the offer from Julian Assange to act as a WikiLeaks Spy, re U.S. Government wrongdoing!), I’d be VERY CONCERNED about the safety and security of James Comey! Although!… maybe!… Julian Assange may feel that Comey would be “better protected” if he “befriends” the WikiLeaks League! And so… Chris Wray!… will you ensure the safety of James Comey, should Comey decide to “spill the beans” on MR. POTUS?
*The Federal Stalking Statute (see, Federal Stalking Statute, 18 U.S.C. §2261A) makes it a F-E-L-O-N-Y for someone to use any interactive computer service, or electronic communication service or system (by the FBI, CIA, NSA, or otherwise!… and, e.g., the aforecited URL, with the intent to kill, injure, HARASS, INTIMIDATE, or place under surveillance (through an official and/ or an unofficial proxy!) another person… and engage in a course of conduct that places a person in reasonable fear of death, or serious bodily injury, OR CAUSES, ATTEMPTS TO CAUSE, OR WOULD REASONABLY BE EXPECTED TO CAUSE SUBSTANTIAL EMOTIONAL DISTRESS (but, let us include, THE POTENTIAL COMPROMISE OF A U.S. FEDERAL ELECTION PROCESS!)!

p0g0 says:

Coal Barons

I’ve lived in the eastern coal fields of Kentucky for 50 years. The culture of coal barons is familiar to me, as is the nature of the coal industry.

Domination and collusion form the foundation of their world. Aggressively vitiating a diverse economy, manipulating the regions Scotch-Irish culture of thanes and lairds, and gaming the local elections are standard stuff, Mr. Murray is in familiar territory as he seeks an Orwellian strong arm approach to criticism from the national media.

Here, the television and radio stations are largely owned by coal barons (most others are owned by tele-evangelists). The state’s senators, federal and local, lie persistently about the value and role of coal to the region and the state. Decades back, a tour of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin convinced many coal barons to divest, moving into banks, investment firms, and even college ebooks. What should have invited an honest admission that eastern coal wasn’t competitive instead became the Big Lie, that Democrats, environmentalists, and folks that just plain didn’t like rural Appalachians were to blame for the loss of market and jobs. To my great embarrassment, my neighbors have clung to those lies, changed their political views, and voted against their interests ever since. Given that so many embrace an evangelism predicated on oppression, Christians vs Romans etc, most direct efforts to bring change are trivialized to an attack on their religious beliefs.

Since that worked so well locally, owning the media, the churches, and the elected, it has been a model for the national dialog as well. Mr Murray is just doing what has worked. The tragedy is that it still works.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Coal Barons

It works because they are quite literally using terror tactics to get and keep people on side. Try expressing an opposing view and see what happens. I once had a conversation with a man who voted Brexit despite worsening austerity that affected him personally as a benefits claimant. He was so high on “Rule Britannia” he just couldn’t see that voting Tory in the general election was against his own interests.

These people you speak of are in the same boat; high on religious nostalgia and afraid of what their friends and neighbours might say if they step out of line. What a toxic mess!

It really is a tragedy and the worst thing about it is that it will take such a long time to resolve.

Anonymous Coward says:

You people have no knowledge of the subject at hand. The program isn’t “fake news”, it is a comedy. You go tell the miners to eat shit and die, you sadistic bourgeois know it all. Haters gonna hate, and the future will be left to those of us willing to get our hands dirty. After all is said and done, diamonds come from coal such as this.

JESS (user link) says:

Truth hurts

First of all I have watched not only the news but also every Daily Show in the book and have come to find that the late night shows speak more truth than any news broadcast I’ve ever seen. I’m very into politics and I’m very into John Oliver he is right and everything he says and I don’t believe that there’s any justification in this lawsuit whatsoever freedom of speech is our First Amendment right and if they can say what they want and make fun of who they want on Saturday Night Live then why can’t he speak the truth on his show without persecution answer me that “Fox News”

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