Comedian John Oliver has every right to tell a coal mining magnate to “eat s—t” and compare him to a “geriatric Dr. Evil” on his hit HBO show, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a new court filing.
The ACLU’s West Virginia branch filed court papers Wednesday in support of the “Last Week Tonight” host, reminding Robert E. Murray, who owns Murray Energy Corporation, that he can’t sue Oliver for defamation just because his “delicate sensibilities were offended.”
“Although this brief pokes fun at the absurdity of this case, the legal issues raised by it are anything but comical,” wrote ACLU lawyer Jamie Lynn Crofts. “It is a basic concept of free speech that you do not get to sue media organizations because you don’t like their coverage.”
Crofts’ 17-page amicus brief, contains humorous headers such as, “Anyone can legally say ‘Eat s—t, Bob!’”, “Courts can’t tell media companies how to report, Bob”, and “You can’t get a court order telling the press how to cover stories, Bob.”
Murray – one of the biggest coal mine operators in the US — sued Oliver for defamation shortly after a segment on the British comic’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight” aired June 18.
In it, Oliver ripped Murray for blaming a deadly 2007 collapse at his Utah mine on an earthquake and for not doing more to protect his workers.
In his suit, Murray complains that Oliver engaged in “ruthless character assassination” for comparing him to the bald Austin Powers villain and getting a giant talking squirrel, named Mr. Nutterbutter, to deliver the “Eat s—t, Bob!” message to Murray on air.
Crofts boiled Murray’s lawsuit down to the coal baron “not liking a television program and somehow beliving that is a legally actionable offense.”
“This case is beyond meritless. It is offensive to the very ideals of free speech embodied in the First Amendment,” she said. “The fact that plaintiffs filed this case is ridiculous enough; but, to pour gasoline on the fire, plaintiffs’ counsel has also filed a motion asking the court to make John Oliver not say mean things about him anymore.”
In a footnote of one of the pages in her brief, Crofts pointed out that Oliver’s comparison of Murray to Dr. Evil “arose from both a striking physical resemblance” between the two.
Despite the blistering barbs, Crofts soberly noted that Oliver’s speech – about matters of public…