Update: Pink Slime Case Sent to State Court
The $1 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC news over “pink slime.” has been moved to a South Dakota state court.
Beef Products Inc, sued ABC after the news network referred to BPI’s product “lean finely textured beef” as “pink slime,” leading to a loss in sales and plant closures. The hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“ABC has responded with a First Amendment defense, and in June, a federal judge transferred the dispute to a state judge to decide. A hearing will be held on ABC's motion to dismiss,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“South Dakota is one of 13 states with food disparagement laws aimed at protecting agricultural interests,” the local Sioux City Journal reported.
The derogatory term “pink slime” was coined by a disgruntled former USDA employee, and was quickly picked up and promoted by ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.” When it led to the loss of over 600 jobs, Beef Products Inc., the company most hurt by the attack, filed a lawsuit against ABC News for $1.2 billion in damages.
During its campaign against the beef, ABC used the term “pink slime” 52 times in just a two-week span and those reports had an impact. Few companies can survive an extensive media assault – even when it’s on a safe and legal product we’ve all been eating for two decades. In this case, ABC’s reporting resulting in lost jobs and revenue. American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle put the blame directly on ABC’s biased coverage: “Congratulations, ‘ABC World News.’ Your relentless coverage and uninformed criticism of a safe and wholesome beef product has now delivered a hook for yet another nightly news broadcast.”
ABC was unapologetic about its role in the possible loss of 600 jobs, saying Beef Products, Inc. "came out swinging" and would try a public relations push "to restore confidence in its product." While ABC’s Jim Avila did admit that the company blamed "social media and news organizations specifically ABC News," ABC conveniently only referred to the beef as "pink slime" twice in the March 26, 2012, “World News with Diane Sawyer.” That's eight times less than their last report.
— Mike Ciandella is Staff Writer/Analyst for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.