November 4, 2013 1:42 pm -

Extremism is in the eye of the beholder, apparently. (At least when being labeled as such might impact company profits.) We learn this lesson today courtesy of one Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporation, who has filed a defamation lawsuit against prominent blogger Mike Stark, creator of and Stark Reports, and against The Huffington Postciting the “great mental anguish and emotional distress” Murray and his family have suffered due to a September 20th Huffington Post piece by Stark.

This is not the first time Murray has been profiled in a national publication for his political activities. You may remember Murray from the photo to the right where he provided 2012 presidential Republican nominee Mitt Romney with a photo-op backed by All-American, blue-collar coal miners. The next day, we learned that those miners were forced to be there, without pay, and under threat of job loss.

Other outlets have documented Murray’s rather forceful cajoling of employees to give to his PAC which supports Republicans, and have noted the “FIRE OBAMA” banners and yard signs posted at company facilities. And then there were the stories from after the election of how Murray lamented Obama’s reelection in a prayer he read out loud to employees right before proceeding to fire more than 150 workers.

So if it seems a bit strange that Bob Murray would only now experience harm from critical media attention, we must ask what Stark and the Huffington Post did or said that the New Republic, Washington Post, Raw Story, or any number of other outlets had not already said?

Stark’s HuffPo piece  does do an admirable job rounding up these greatest hits and reports that, more recently, Murray seems to be promoting an effort to impeach President Obama. The gist of the defamation suit seems to be the labeling of Murray as ‘extreme’ and the suggestion that his post-election layoffs were the ‘fulfillment of a promise’ made during the campaign. Funny, but Murray didn’t call out the lawyers when Dave Weigel called him ‘history’s greatest monster‘ and read the layoffs in precisely the same way. And how, other than extreme, does one read some of the political positions Murray has taken? I guess it’s one thing when Mitt Romney calls himself an ‘extreme conservative’ and quite another when it comes from those dang liberals?

I’m afraid that it may just come down to being publicly tied to Virginia Attorney General and Republican candidate for Governor,Ken Cuccinelli. It’s also probably not so about being labeled extreme for supporting Cuccinelli, or with being so publicly tied to yet another political loser. Instead, there is a very real coal-related scandal hanging around Cuccinelli’s neck:

Ken Cuccinelli, the Tea Party/GOP candidate for governor in Virginia, is struggling to save his campaign from a pair of slow-moving — but unrelenting — scandals that cast doubt upon his character and integrity.

To be clear, neither of these scandals are Whitewater-esque: There really is a “there” there…

While Cuccinelli was literally sleeping in Star Scientific’s bed, he was also using the power of his office to benefit a Pennsylvania coal and gas company, Consol Energy. Beginning in 2010, Cuccinelli (and other lawyers in his office) took steps to help Consol avoid paying coal-bed methane royalties owed to Virginia landowners. Here again, the money trail is damning. Over the first seven years of Cuccinelli’s political career, Consol contributed a total of $3,500 to Cuccinelli’s various campaigns. In contrast, in the three years Cuccinelli has been using his AG office to benefit Consol, they’ve given his campaigns more than $140,000.

One might think that an embattled politician struggling to overcome the headwinds of scandal would be cautious before accepting fat envelopes of cash from extreme and unsavory donors.

Not Cuccinelli.

According to Cuccinelli’s most recent campaign finance filing, his most generous individual contributor (and largest donor after the Republican Governors Association), is Murray Energy Corporation.

And that, dear readers, is why Bob Murray wants to smack a prominent blogger and one of the highest-trafficked political websites in the country. It’s not that he got his fee-fees hurt. It’s not that he’s been defamed. (Heck, ‘defamed by liberals’ would be a badge of honor.) It’s also not about an invasion of privacy which his lawyers ridiculously threw into the suit claiming that “Murray is neither a public figure nor a limited public figure.” No. This is about scaring away further coverage of Murray, his ties to Cuccinelli, and Cuccinelli’s ethical problems from pandering to the coal industry.

Sandi Behrns