You might say the ACLU isn’t happy about coal CEO Bob Murray’s lawsuit targeting HBO host John Oliver.

The West Virginia chapter of the organization filed a scathing amicus brief in support of Oliver on Tuesday, calling the lawsuit “nuts” and arguing that “anyone can legally say, ‘eat (expletive), Bob.’”

The ACLU took particular offense to the request for a court order barring rebroadcasts of the “Last Week Tonight” segment, which aired in June and skewered Murray’s coal company, Murray Energy.

“Bob Murray thinks John Oliver was mean to him, and he doesn’t want him to be mean again. While that is sad for Bob Murray, it is unconstitutional for a court to order such relief,” ACLU lawyers wrote in the brief.


Adding insult to injury, the ACLU countered Murray’s objection to being called “a geriatric Dr. Evil” by noting that “truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation,” and included the side-by-side photo comparison featured in Oliver’s show for good measure.

In footnotes, the ACLU called it a “striking physical resemblance.”
In footnotes, the ACLU called it a “striking physical resemblance.”

Back in June, Murray Energy sued HBO and John Oliver for financial damages and a court order barring rebroadcasts of what it called a ‘‘false and malicious” segment.

Oliver’s June ‘‘Last Week Tonight’’ segment criticized the Trump administration’s effort to revive the coal industry, saying the number of coal jobs has dropped for decades and other energy alternatives are driving the industry’s decline.

He ribbed Murray, who blames regulatory efforts by the Obama administration for damaging the industry, and noted that the company had fought against coal safety regulations.

In its lawsuit, Murray Energy claimed that Oliver tried to embarrass Murray by making fun of his age and appearance, and made false statements about a 2007 collapse of a Utah mine, when nine miners died. The company also said Oliver ignored information it sent the show that it says showed an earthquake caused the mine’s collapse, and that the show made no mention of ‘‘the efforts Mr. Murray personally made to save the trapped miners.’’


For his part, Oliver has not commented on the lawsuit, except to say he “desperately” wanted to talk about it, but was advised not to.

Read the amicus brief:

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Jaclyn Reiss contributed.