Appalachian coal magnate Bob Murray on Friday won a pair of legal victories in lawsuits against HBO comedian John Oliver and the New York Times over their portrayal of his coal business.
A federal district court judge in West Virginia denied the newspaper's request to throw out Murray's defamation lawsuit against it. The judge also agreed with Murray that the HBO case be sent to a lower state court for review after HBO successfully motioned that the litigation be heard in federal court.
In both of Murray's cases, he says the newspaper and the comedy news program "Last Week Tonight" wrongly portrayed coal company Murray Energy's record on coal mine safety. Friday's decisions were not on the merits of either case, but were more procedural in nature. Nevertheless, they demonstrate that the legal arguments that Murray is making aren't going away any time soon.
The issue at hand is a 2007 coal mine disaster that occurred at one of Murray's mines in Utah that resulted in the deaths of nine mine workers. The New York Times wrote an editorial in April that said Murray "falsely insisted" that the disaster was caused by an earthquake and not safety violations outlined in a 2012 settlement agreement.
The settlement that Murray signed showed four safety violation that the Labor Department said contributed to the collapse of the mine. Yet, Murray insisted in an interview with National Public Radio that "this settlement is not an admission of any contribution to the August 2007 accidents."
Likewise, Oliver's show in June lambasted Murray for some of his statements, calling him a "geriatric Dr. Evil."
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the mine disaster at Murray Energy's Crandall Canyon mine.