John Oliver picks a fight with the coal industry

A certain moment from last year’s presidential election is usually singled out by Trump supporters and out-of-touch elite media columnists who love to write long dissertations about how the Democratic party is out-of-touch with the white working class. During a March 2016 CNN Town Hall, Hillary Clinton was asked, in effect, why poor white should people vote for her. Her response, where she talked about finding new job opportunities in a green economy that focused on clean renewable energy, was taken out of context and essentially quoted as: “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Opponents of climate change prevention policies attacked, tying her response together with criticisms of Obama administration policies, and the moment was used by the current president to double-down. Trump has promised to create thousands of new coal industry jobs, but the symbolism of it fit the Trump campaign’s modus operandi.

For many of

who believe the bullshit about Trump and his ability to bring about a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, a defense of coal mining comes off as a defense of hard-working, rural white men and feeds into a resentment which believes the educated and privileged are judging and looking down their noses. Because for a certain segment of Americana, the terms “green jobs” and renewable energy—no matter how much sense they might make, no matter what kind of jobs they might create down the line—are going to be synonymous with “liberal pussies who drive a Prius,” and are therefore bad. But another sad facet of this particular mess is the fact some of the affected are poor people, desperate to believe in mirages and lies offered by con men.

Last night, John Oliver set his sights on coal, aka “cocaine for Thomas the Tank Engine,” and the Trump administration’s lies on the subject. This incurred the wrath of Trump-friendly coal executives, who preemptively sent cease and desist orders to HBO when they heard about the segment. Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp and, according to Oliver, “geriatric Dr. Evil,” has also sued the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and several local papers in attempts to counter negative reporting. Oliver, apparently backed by the lawyers of HBO, decided to respond by skewering Murray—with the help of a giant squirrel named Mr. Nutter Butter holding a check, telling Murray to kiss his ass.

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