The American Civil Liberty Union on Tuesday filed an amicus brief defending “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” after the show called coal executive Robert Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil,” going so far as to include a side-by-side comparison of the defendant and his movie doppelgänger.
Murray filed a defamation suit against Last Week Tonight and Time Warner Cable alleging “nothing has ever stressed [Murray] more than [Oliver’s] vicious and untruthful attack.”
“As one media outlet asked, ‘[I]s he really saying that a late night British comedian on a premium channel has caused him more stress than the time that one of his mines collapsed and killed a group of his employees? If so . . . that’s . . . weird,’” the ACLU writes in its brief.
The ACLU insists the “case is about Murray not liking a television program and somehow believing that is a legally actionable offense,” adding, “apparently because [Murray’s] delicate sensibilities were offended, they clutched their pearls and filed this suit.”
The segment Murray took offense to, the ACLU notes, “begins with John Oliver referring to coal as, ‘Basically cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine,’ and later compares Murray with Dr. Evil, “a comical villain in the Austin Powers movie series and Mr. Nutterbutter, the talking squirrel.”
“Obviously, any ‘reasonable person would realize that such communications are the type of critical commentary typically filled with political innuendo and should not be taken at face value or viewed as a statement of fact,’” the ACLU continues.
“It should be noted that the very mean comparison arose from both a striking physical resemblance between the two characters and a statement by Plaintiff’s General Counsel with an uncanny similarity to statements made by a more youthful Dr. Evil,” they write.
“With regard to the Dr. Evil remark, it should be remembered that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation,” they add.