By Jack Fowler
September 20, 2012
I’ve written here about ABC News’ jihad against “lean finely textured beef,” notoriously dubbed “pink slime” by the network’s scandal-mongers. Their scare campaign led to a massive fall-off in sales of LFTB, which cost hundreds of people their jobs. Beef Products Inc. has fought back with a big defamation lawsuit. Media warhorse Steven Brill opines on this controversy in his Reuters column, and believes ABC may indeed be in trouble:
But — and this is a big but — there are 13 counts alleging defamation in this complaint, and they are compellingly persuasive. In fact, they make ABC look terrible. . . .
But as an aficionado of these cases, I can report that this is the most detailed, persuasive complaint of its kind that I have ever read.
After reading it — and, in fact, reading and re-reading its painstaking explanation of how the plaintiff’s product is produced and used — and then looking back at some of the ABC reports, I began to believe that it was Beef Products that was slimed. I actually found myself believing that this may not be “The Jungle, Part Two”; that what the company produces really is the “lean, finally textured beef,” or “LFTB” that Beef Products’ complaint says it is; that it is real meat, not “filler” or “gelatin,” as it was described on ABC; and that it is safe and has been deemed so by federal inspectors and officials who were not paid off or unduly influenced by corporate politics and lobbying.
Moreover, I was especially intrigued by the claims that ABC had blown off all the evidence Beef Products presented to the network’s producers saying that their first reports were wrong, and that ABC not only did not correct them on air, but stepped up its campaign against “pink slime.”
If that’s true, it could establish the kind of “actual malice” or “reckless disregard” for the truth that would put ABC in real legal jeopardy.
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