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Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post.

Filed on September 25 in Belmont County’s Court of Common Pleas, Murray’s complaint accuses Mike Stark, creator of FossilAgenda.com and Stark Reports, and The Huffington Post of defamation and invasion of privacy stemming from Mr. Stark’s September 20 article, “Meet the Extremist Coal Baron Bankrolling Ken Cuccinelli’s Campaign.”

Stark, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and David Halperin, former Executive Director of the Center for American Progress’ Campus Progress (now Generation Progress), pushed back this week, issuing a motion to dismiss charges to the judge-of-record for the case.

Published in the midst of the heated Virginia gubernatorial race between Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe – one of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign chairmen – Stark’s piece struck a nerve with Murray, one of Cuccinelli’s key campaign contributors.

In the piece published on The Huffington Post, Stark points to the $30,000 that Murray Energy has given Cuccinelli, as well as Robert Murray’s campaign work on behalf of 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Stark also covers Murray’s call for the impeachment of President Obama at a recent speaking engagement, along with his firing of 150 workers after Obama’s 2012 victory over Mitt Romney and the prayer he offered the U.S. public after Obama’s 2012 victory.

The rationale behind the defamation suit for Murray boils down to Stark and The HuffPost referring to Murray as an “extremist” and pointing to the firing of the 150 Murray Energy workers as a potential “fulfillment of a promise” after the 2012 presidential election.

“The Defamatory Statements…were published with malice…[and] were understood and interpreted by readers of The Huffington Post to be assertions of fact, not opinion,” says Murray’s complaint. “These false and defamatory statements have severely harmed the reputation of the Murray plaintiffs [and have] caused great mental anguish and emotional distress for Plaintiff Robert E. Murray and his family members.”

Even though defamation charges generally apply exclusively to people with a prominent public profile, like Murray, his attorneys have also doled out false light invasion of privacy charges to Stark and HuffPost, as well, implying Murray is not a public figure at all.

“Murray is neither a public figure not a limited public figure in that he has neither voluntarily sought public or media attention, nor has he achieved such a status by reason of the notoriety of his achievements,” reads the complaint.

Plaintiffs: Lost Profits, Tarnished Reputation

Of the 39 paragraphs in Murray’s defamation charge count, nine of them argue Stark and The Huffington Post have damaged Murray personally and professionally and will end up hurting his company’s profit margins. [cont’d.]

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