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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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 3:49pm

    "So, once again, this is why we need a strong federal anti-SLAPP law, not to mention better state-level anti-SLAPP laws."

    Like in Massachusetts! And preferably with retrospective effect!!

    #ShivaTime

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      unconstitutional to make laws retroactive.

      http://constitutionus.com/

      Article I
      Section 9
      Paragraph 3

      No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Steerpike (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:03am

        Re: Re:

        Some ex post facto laws have been allowed to stand. More pertinent, here, I believe Supreme Court case law on this establishes the Constitutional provision as applying to criminal law, not civil law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 6:53pm

        Re: Re:

        The multiple retroactive extensions to copyright laws would seem to argue otherwise.

        Not saying it should be allowed('What you did was legal yesterday, and isn't today. Guess who's going to court tomorrow?'), but the legislature doesn't seem to have a problem doing it anyway.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Colin (profile), 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:06pm

    Is the video still up and geo-restricted to US only or did someone get at HBO? Can't get it in Canada. Guess I'll have to resort to "alternative access".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:11pm

      Re:

      "Move to the US!"

      - Media Companies

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 5:01pm

      Re: Geo Restriction

      Same thing happens here in Australia. we get the YouTube message, "The uploader has not made this video available in your country."

      Way to go HBO, how to connect with your fans. NOT.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        CharlieBrown, 20 Jun 2017 @ 9:15pm

        Re: Re: Geo Restriction

        In Australia it is due to their contract with Foxtel

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 7:16am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:28am

        Re: Re: Geo Restriction

        Use one of the geo-circumvention sites, like TubeUnblock.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:04am

      Re:

      They're not usually available in the UK either. Thankfully there are plenty of proxies for youtube on the intertubes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:11pm

    Oliver's topic next month: SLAPP Suits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:19pm

    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! ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:59pm

      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*).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 5:24pm

        Re: Re: Kinda torn

        And, btw. The way regulation/deregulation regimes that caused the California electricity crisis carries an amazingly large amount of similarities to ISPs without netneutrality and Title II. The economics of gaming internet speeds to optimise profits can begin...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 5:18am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 20 Jun 2017 @ 4:25pm

    They could nick name it the John Oliver Law as this is one of the most publicized SLAPP suits ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 5:05pm

    Filing this SLAPP suit proves that Murray's completely nuts far more effectively than than a giant squirrel ever could.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 5:48pm

    The coal jobs are not coming back.
    Trump is blowing smoke up peoples butts.
    It is amazing they still believe him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:24am

      Re:

      It gives his supporters that warm & fuzzy feeeling

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      rangda (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 6:42am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:21pm

        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...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      Gives new meaning to the term "Rolling Coal."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2017 @ 8:28pm

    My first thought/opinion after watching that segment of the show was:

    If Murray Energy's first reaction upon media contact is to threaten legal action, then they must seriously be up to some shady BS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    JOHN MAYOR, 20 Jun 2017 @ 10:14pm

    WHERE'S TRUMP'S SLAPP?

    Ummm!... you know, this story reminds me of a similar matter...
    .
    .
    ATTENTION: CHRIS WRAY
    .
    .
    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. ยง2261A) 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!)!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:22am

    This may actually be the tipping point that may spawn more comprehensive anti-SLAPP laws in all levels. It's a high profile case with a well known and charismatic public figure that has plenty of resources behind him to sustain a judicial war of attrition. This will be interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    p0g0, 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 21 Jun 2017 @ 5:48am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Champion, 21 Jun 2017 @ 8:29am

    video not available but its ok ill pirate oliver then

    get stuffed coal industry and copyright and ya that was a hilarious way to say

    SCREW YOU

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 9:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      Why is it relevant that diamonds come from coal "such as this"? As far as I know, there are no diamond mines in the United States.
      If the miners were mining diamonds, we'd have a "diamond industry", not a "coal industry". ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 10:16pm

        Re: Re:

        Diamonds are also notorious for having their supply regulated to ensure high demand for an artificially scarce supply. It's a pretty famous retail ripoff.

        The original poster tried very hard to be poetic. It's a shame for him that reality paints a far starker picture.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 12:43pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jun 21st, 2017 @ 9:41am

      What do you mean by "you people." Are you a bigoted yokel?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      Umm...what?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Global Warming, 21 Jun 2017 @ 12:24pm

    Thank you very much, President Trump.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:52pm

    "Oliver has HBO and its lawyers to back him up"

    Freedom of speech, for those who can afford it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JESS, 12 Jul 2017 @ 2:59am

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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