In the April 14 episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver says this (emphasis mine):

For legal reasons I have to tell you that the Sacklers and Purdue insist the family didn't cause the opioid crisis and vigorously deny the claims in the lawsuits we've mentioned...

What does he mean by this? Is there some sort of regulation that the show would have to say what the Sacklers are defending themselves with? If so, what is it?

  • Additional context would be helpful. What did he say about the Sacklers and Purdue prior to this quote? The first thing that comes to mind is he was covering himself against a defamation lawsuit. – DKu Apr 16 '19 at 17:47
  • @DKu he repeated some of their claims. – Stormblessed Apr 16 '19 at 22:28

John Oliver is making it clear that he is repeating what other people are accusing the family of, not accusing them himself. To demonstrate that, he is presenting both sides. If he didn't, there is a chance he could get sued for slander, that is false defamatory statements (because he was presenting a single side as true.) That would mean HBO would either have to settle or prove that what he said was true.

He fairly frequently includes "to be fair" or "legally I have to say" at the end of his segments, providing a statement from the people/companies/etc denying what he said.

He has announced at least once on a lawsuit that resulted from things he said, about a coal industry titan. He hasn't said much except that it exists, as talking about an on-going lawsuit is one of the first things his lawyers told him not to do.


There is a difference between reporting on claims, versus repeating claims. If Oliver is found to be repeating the claim, then he could be sued for liable. But if he is simply informing the viewers that someone has made a claim, he is not liable.

  • Do you have a source? – Stormblessed Apr 16 '19 at 22:31
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    @stormblessed I'm going to go ahead and source common sense. This might be a better question for LawSE, if you don't understand the legal difference. – Gnemlock Apr 17 '19 at 3:14
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    @Gnemlock Had to laugh at this. Where do you draw the line for requiring sources? “Humans breath air.”, “Do you have a source?” – Darren Apr 20 '19 at 7:53

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