Brow Beat

Here Are the Sickest Burns in the West Virginia ACLU’s Amicus Brief About Bob Murray’s Dumb John Oliver Lawsuit

Mr. Nutterbutter and John Oliver, living their best lives.


Coal baron Bob Murray, who Dave Weigel once called “history’s greatest monster” in a Slate headline for laying off 156 people the day after Barack Obama was re-elected and blaming it on the election, was apparently very, very unhappy with how he was treated in a John Oliver segment a few weeks ago. And it’s no wonder: after Murray Energy sent a cease and desist order to Last Week Tonight sputtering about pursuing legal remedies “to the fullest extent of the law, including to the level of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Oliver devoted a large part of the segment to him, going so far as to have a giant squirrel named “Mr. Nutterbutter” tell Murray to “Eat shit, Bob!” As Oliver put it on the show, he didn’t have much choice:


Bob Murray, I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one. And I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what? I stand by everything I said.

Murray wasn’t bluffing: he filed a defamation suit in West Virginia circuit court against Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner a few days after the show aired, one of many such lawsuits he’s filed against media organizations who criticized him in the past. On Tuesday, Jamie Lynn Crofts of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed an amicus brief in the case that is a truly remarkable piece of legal writing. The fun starts with the section headings, which, in addition to addressing “The Ridiculous Case in Hand,” pick up on a theme and run with it:


  • Anyone Can Legally Say, “Eat Shit, Bob!”
  • Plaintiff’s Motion for a Restraining Order is Ridiculous. Courts Can’t Tell Media Companies How to Report, Bob.
  • All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob.
  • Plaintiff’s Requested Injunction Is Clearly Unconstitutional. You Can’t Get a Court Order Telling the Press How to Cover Stories, Bob.


The entire document is worth reading—Crofts’ masterful blend of scorn and disbelief should be the default response to silly lawsuits like this one—but here are a few highlights.

On Whether Bob Murray Can Sue John Oliver for Saying He Looks Like Dr. Evil

And with regard to the Dr. Evil remark, it should be noted that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation … [Crofts includes photos of Dr. Evil and Bob Murray here.] It should be noted that the very mean comparison arose from both a striking physical resemblance and a statement made by Plaintiff’s General Counsel with an uncanny similarity to statements made by a more youthful Dr. Evil.


On Things That Are Sad for Bob Murray

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.

On Whether or Not John Oliver is a Wizard

Plaintiffs argue that Defendants will use their “unique powers” to “access … millions of West Virginians, to bias the potential jurors who will determine their fate.” … (These special powers must include magic, as West Virginia has under 2 million residents.)


On Giant Squirrels Named Mr. Nutterbutter

It is apt that one of Plaintiffs’ objections to the show is about a human-sized squirrel named Mr. Nutterbutter, because this case is nuts. Which also begs the question: is Mr. Nutterbutter one of the 50 Doe Defendants included in this action?


While we’ll have to wait for the courts to decide Mr. Nutterbutter’s fate, there’s one thing the documents make clear: Bob Murray would prefer you not rewatch this clip, in which Mr. Nutterbutter tells him, “Eat shit, Bob!”