John Oliver has emerged from a defamation lawsuit unscathed.
Robert Murray, the CEO of America’s biggest privately owned coal company, as well as associated coal companies, sued Oliver and HBO in June over a Last Week Tonight segment. This week, the presiding Judge Jeffrey Cramer granted a dismissal.
“I find the arguments set forth in the Defendats’ 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 a note to counsel, as posted online by The Hollywood Reporter. “The Court adopts, with little exception, Defendants’ argument in support of their Motion regarding all issues addressed in the same.”
In the initial segment (shown below), Oliver criticized Murray Energy for the safety and health practices of its employees. It also featured a talking squirrel that declared, “Eat s—, Bob.” Oliver’s team reached out to Murray for comment on the segment before it aired, to which he reportedly replied with a “cease and desist” letter with a threat to pursue legal action.
“I have to proceed with caution,” Oliver had said on Last Week Tonight. “I’m not going to say he looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil, even though he clearly does.”
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Murray claimed Oliver and HBO “executed a meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character of and reputation of Mr. Robert E. Murray and his companies.”
HBO and Partially Important Productions submitted motions to dismiss the case after it was remanded to West Virginia court, according to THR. One of the motions argued that Murray’s complaint “disregards long-settled First Amendment and common law protections for the two types of speech challenged here: accurate reporting on government activity, and commentary and satire on matters of public concern.”
Judge Cramer agreed, and asked Oliver, HBO, and producers to prepare a proposed order within 20 days to be reviewed by the court.