John Oliver Takes on the Coal Baron

On Sunday, June 18th 2017, John Oliver did a 24-minute segment on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, on the decline of the coal industry and Donald Trump’s pie-in-the-sky promises to bring it back, to ‘end the [non-existent] war on coal’.  I like John Oliver … he’s humorous, yet tackles the serious issues of the day with a well-informed monologue.  This segment was no exception.

Let’s go back a bit.  As we all recall, one of the issues Trump’s 2016 campaign focused on was jobs for coal miners.  Trump’s contention was that so many coal miners were out of work solely because of the “unnecessary” regulations that had been put in place by President Obama, and that once he, Trump, removed those regulations, the so-called ‘war on coal’ would end and coal would once again boom, coal would once again be king.

coal-1Never mind that many of the regulations in place are to ensure the health and safety of the miners themselves, and never mind that the remainder of the regulations are to protect our environment, the very air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live.  Who needs regulations, right?  Who needs laws to keep rich coal barons from using their employees as a disposable asset, or from causing devastation to the earth that will take thousands of years to repair, if ever?

Anyway, long story short, one of the targets Mr. Oliver took on that night was Bob Murray, chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corporation.  He is one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the United States, who simply refuses to understand, or to acknowledge that coal mining is a dying industry, in part because the burning of coal is causing a dying planet, and people of good conscience have found other, more efficient ways to provide energy.

bob-murrayAs Mr. Oliver noted before beginning …

“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.’”

And sue he did.  The following Wednesday, Murray sued Oliver for defamation, along with HBO and Time Warner. The lawsuit, filed in West Virginia circuit court, accused Oliver of carrying out a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray and broadcasting false statements about his company to HBO’s 134 million paying subscribers. The complaint alleged one count each of defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and sought financial damages and an injunction barring the rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment.

Now, Murray is a huge supporter of Donald Trump, having donated some $300,000 to Trump’s campaign in 2016, and claiming that Trump once phoned him to tell him he loved him.  Well, they do have some things in common, such as their love of lawsuits.  While Murray cannot hold a candle to Trump’s record of more than 4,000 lawsuits, he has a penchant for suing, especially the media.  Murray has filed over a dozen defamation lawsuits against journalists and newspapers, none of which reached judgment in his favor.  Most, in fact, never made it to trial.

And that is just what happened with Murray’s suit against John Oliver.  The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of HBO in the case, and last week, Judge Jeffrey Cramer of West Virginia’s second judicial circuit dismissed the case.  Naturally, Murray plans to waste more time and money by appealing the decision.  Spokesman Gary Broadbent blasted the dismissal …

“This decision contains absolutely no legal reasoning, whatsoever, and instead blindly adopts the Defendants’ deeply flawed arguments. This is a flagrant disregard of the law, the facts, and the substantial damages intentionally inflicted by the Defendants. Clearly, this decision is detrimental to our employees, who rely on Mr. Murray and Murray Energy for their continued livelihoods, and to our lenders, customers, and suppliers who depend on our integrity and performance.”

A bit of a drama queen, don’t you think?  I mean, really … the lenders, customers, employees and suppliers will all be injured by the 24-minute clip by John Oliver?  I think not.  I don’t mind Murray wasting his own money on legal fees so much, but I mind the fact that he is wasting our tax dollars and tying up valuable court time.  Oh well … I should have made him Idiot of the Week.

Murray also liked suing the Obama administration and filed more than a half dozen lawsuits against the administration, including several challenging its landmark policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. For him, any attempt to regulate pollution from power plants is a plot not only to destroy coal producers in the United States but also to take control of the nation’s electrical supply.  He apparently missed the memo that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are not only more efficient and safer, but also cheaper?  Murray is almost delusional in his belief …

“What it is is a political power grab of America’s power grid to change our country in a diabolical, if not evil, way. Thank you, Obama!”

One of the things Oliver highlighted in his segment was the collapse of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, owned by a subsidiary of Murray Energy.  Murray absolved himself and his company of any responsibility, claiming it was the fault of an earthquake.  Prior to the collapse, the mine had received 64 safety violations, and post-investigation, senior mine safety officials ruled that the collapse was not caused by any earthquake, but by safety violations.  Six miners were killed in the collapse.

So why do I tell you all of this?  In part, because John Oliver made some excellent points in his video, about how the lives of coal miners have been affected, about the real reason coal will never become a vibrant industry again, and about the unscrupulous ways of Bob Murray and his ilk.  And in part I chose this story because if you turn on CNN, NBC News, or log onto the New York Times or Washington Post, you likely did not see this story.  Why?  Because it is not about Donald Trump, at least not directly, or any of his family or minions.  Instead, you saw such ridiculously irrelevant headlines involving Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Stormy Daniels, and of course the head Trump.  Sometimes other things happen in the world.

27 thoughts on “John Oliver Takes on the Coal Baron

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  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This is a ‘must watch …. ‘ John Oliver made some excellent points in his video, about how the lives of coal miners have been affected, about the real reason coal will never become a vibrant industry again, and about the unscrupulous ways of Bob Murray and his ilk.’

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the things I do love about John Oliver is that he covers events and people besides the great orange Cheeto. Sometimes we forget, in the overwhelming din that is the current WH, that there is more going on the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Jill,

    You are so right about President Trump sucking up so much media coverage, that major stories are being missed.

    A for the John Oliver, there is nothing like the truth instead of false promises. The coal business is dying which is a plus for US and consistent with US National Security interests.

    Like Keith said , if the president and his republican sycophants truly cared about coal miners losing their jobs, they wouldn’t have defunded a career retraining program for displaced coal workers in 2017.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quite so. I like John Oliver, for he is humorous, but at the same time his pieces are well-researched, timely and relevant. I hadn’t ever watched him until Keith recommended one a few months ago, and I was hooked.

      Yes, if DDT had any interest in the coal miners, auto workers, steel workers or farmers, he wouldn’t be doing any of the things he is doing. But some are still so dazed that they cannot see this. And to rollback regulations that were put into place to protect the health and safety of the workers in any industry shows his level of concern. His concern is for the company owners, the people with money and power. Greed.


      Liked by 1 person

    • Oliver is fun, isn’t he? And his material is always well-researched, relevant and timely. Actually, to answer your question, I think there are a few. I would note Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for starters, and I know of a number of others. But, as with everything else, the bad ones are the ones who we hear about, which gives all of Big Business a bad name. Sigh. Hugs, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jill, I saw this piece. The key conclusion is the President is more for coal owners than coal workers. When his first proposed budget last year defunded a career retraining program for displaced coal workers, that should have been a clear sign.

    On a related matter, this week the first major clean coal plant was shuttered before ever going live due to significant cost overruns. While there is no such thing as clean coal, this plant was launched with high hopes and a lot of acclaim. Yet, it turns out management had known for a long time about the significant costs overruns and installation problems. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, Trump claims to be for the people, but we all know where his loyalties lie, whether it is coal miners or auto workers, he is not doing anything to help the people.

      What a waste of money … a “clean” coal plant built and shut down before it ever fires up! No, there is no such thing as clean coal and anybody with half a brain can figure that out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, I saw Murray interviewed on PBS Newshour. He argued with data points from several years ago. Cost of renewables has fallen to be more comparable and when the present value costs of acquisition, degradation, production, maintenance, litigation and healthcare are factored in, renewables are far cheaper. Just ask any utility about the cost of coal ash clean up and litigation. Keith


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