If You Try To SLAPP John Oliver, You Best Not Miss

Lawrence Kim
November 12, 2019

Back in June 2017, John Oliver devoted a segment of his show to the coal industry and, more specifically, Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray, which included someone in a giant squirrel suit saying, "Eat shit, Bob!"

He has since dropped the lawsuit, which now allows Last Week Tonight to legally talk about it and it ties in nicely with the topic of Oliver's show this week: SLAPP Suits.

While John Oliver and Last Week Tonight have the power of the Home Box Office (HBO) and their parent company behind them, when SLAPP Suits are issued against those without that support structure in place, that is where things can become hugely problematic.

Oliver staged an elaborate musical number featuring lyrics like "Bob Murray can go fuck himself today!" and "He masturbates to Schindler's List!" and "He was Cosby's drug supplier, Jeffrey Epstein's prison guard!"

The case was dismissed in February of previous year but Murray appealed to the state supreme court. The case languished there for over a year before Murray dropped it (Murray Energy is also, perhaps relatedly, now reorganizing for bankruptcy). And that intent connects to Oliver's larger issue of the day: Slapp (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits.

"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".

"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".

"Now, obviously, the lawsuit was a bulls**t effort to silence us", Oliver said.

John Oliver sings in the Season 6 premiere of HBO's "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver".

Even though he won, Oliver said the case still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the show's libel insurance premiums tripled. "They don't have to work to be considered very, very successful", he said. Without the protection of federal anti-SLAPP legislation, or HBO's bankroll, I live in near constant fear of people like Bob Murray.

"And I know that after tonight, Murray will probably sue us again, even though everything I said has been rigorously vetted by our lawyers who, may I add, are getting very exhausted with us". A melodic attorney even made a cameo in the five-minute song to also tell Murray to "eat".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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