Judge Dismisses Coal Magnate's Lawsuit Against John Oliver, HBO

West Virginia judge rules that June 2017 'Last Week Tonight' segment protected by First Amendment

A West Virginia judge dismissed a coal magnate's defamation lawsuit against Last Week Tonight that followed a June 2017 segment where host John Oliver called Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray a "geriatric Dr. Evil."

Judge Jeffrey Cramer of West Virginia's second judicial circuit granted HBO's motion to dismiss Murray's lawsuit, Deadline reports, with Cramer agreeing that the First Amendment protected the Last Week Tonight segment.

"I find the arguments set forth in the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and Reply well-founded, appropriate in this matter and will grant the same," Cramer wrote in his letter to attorneys. "The Court adopts, with little exception, Defendants’ argument in support of their Motion regarding all issues addressed in the same."

After the segment aired in June 2017, Murray Energy filed a temporary restraining order that attempted to block the rebroadcast of the episode, which focused on the struggles of the coal industry, mining tragedies and the notoriously litigious CEO; in the segment, Oliver (correctly) predicted that the show would likely be sued over the episode, which also featured a person in a squirrel costume with a giant check that read "Eat shit, Bob."

At the time, HBO argued that Murray's restraining orders were "merely the latest examples of Murray's ongoing campaign to use 'punitive litigation ... to chill constitutionally protected speech."

Less than a week after the coal segment aired, Murray formally sued HBO and Last Week Tonight because they "executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies." Murray also claimed the segment would reduce his life expectancy "due to his Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis."

In a follow-up segment, Oliver added, "I know you’re probably going to sue me over this. But, you know what? I stand by everything I said." Watch the original segment below: