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John Oliver took on SLAPP lawsuits during Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.
“Lawsuits. The reason that the sentence ‘Greta Thunberg allegedly killed Jeffrey Epstein’ has the word ‘allegedly’ in it,” the comedian explained.
Oliver explained that the topic of lawsuits was on his mind because the suit that coal tycoon Bob Murray filed against him had recently been dropped. Back in 2017, Murray sued Last Week Tonight over a segment in which Oliver joked that he looked like “a geriatric Dr. Evil.” The show also arranged “for a staff member to dress up in a squirrel costume and deliver the message, ‘Eat shit, Bob.'”
“Murray’s lawsuit against us asked for damages because he claimed that nothing has ever stressed him more than our ‘vicious and awful attack,'” Oliver continued. “Which is an odd thing to say, given that, as I just mentioned, he oversaw a company whose mine collapse in Utah resulted in the deaths of nine people.”
The case was initially dismissed, though Murray appealed the decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court. To Oliver’s dismay, one of the judges on the case was Allen Loughry, whom the host made fun of in a 2015 episode of Last Week Tonight. After Loughry and three other Supreme Court justices were impeached for inappropriate spending and the case was not heard, Murray offered to drop the suit at the same time Murray Energy was filing for bankruptcy.
Oliver said he believed Murray’s goal wasn’t to win the case, and he characterized it as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation): “The whole point is to put the defendant through a difficult, painful experience.”
While 30 states have anti-SLAPP laws that require plaintiffs to justify their claims at an earlier stage in the proceeding, West Virginia — where Murray filed his suit — has no such law. “Lawsuits like his make people think twice before reporting on his business or pointing things out like the fact that Bob Murray’s general facial expression answers the question, ‘What would it look like if an egg was mentally undressing you?”‘ Oliver joked.
Oliver’s point about the effect of SLAAP suits segued into a reveal the Last Week Tonight team uncovered multiple lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct against Murray while researching for the latest episode, suits that have gone uncovered in the media. The coal tycoon has denied the claims, and Oliver admitted that by bringing to light the allegations in the episode, the show risked being sued.
“Here we go again,” said Oliver. “It is yet another Bob Murray attempt to bully people into silence, and he has been doing this for decades. I will stand behind our first piece, and I will stand behind this one.”
Oliver concluded the segment with a musical number. “Even though he’ll threaten legal Armageddon, we have just one tiny thing to say,” he sang. “Bob Murray can go fuck himself today.”
The host then introduced the “Suck My Ball, Bob” dancers, who sang about several obviously fictional claims against Murray, including that he spat on the Mona Lisa at The Louvre and that he shot a rocket full of puppies into outer space.
“If we discuss Bob Murray in a way no reasonable person could construe as factual, we can say whatever the fuck we’d like,” said Oliver before he led the dancers out into the street. Once outside, the performers were joined by pedestrians as they continued to make outrageous claims against Murray.
The musical number concluded with the performers taking over Times Square as they enthusiastically sang, “Eat shit, Bob!”
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