Lawyers representing ABC News and two former USDA inspectors squared off Tuesday in a South Dakota courtroom against attorneys for Beef Products Inc. (BPI) in a defamation lawsuit stemming from the television network’s coverage of the company’s product, “lean finely textured beef,” commonly referred to as “pink slime,” in a series of critical media coverage last year. BPI wants $1.2 billion in damages, saying the public backlash from misleading media coverage caused their business to drop by 80 percent and forced the owners to close three out of four processing plants, laying off hundreds of workers. The defendants say they were exercising their First Amendment rights and did not spread dishonest information. Between news stories and social media posts, ABC News allegedly referred to BPI’s beef additive as “pink slime” 137 times over a four-week period. ABC’s attorney Kevin Bane said it was the organization’s free speech right to do so and that the news coverage never claimed that the product was unsafe. The defendants argued three motions in the four-hour meeting, including a motion to dismiss the case because of a lack of facts supporting a defamation or product disparagement claim. The defense team also argued that the two former USDA inspectors, Gerald Zirnstein and Carl Custer – who allegedly defamed BPI as sources in the news stories – did not do anything that merited being brought to court under South Dakota jurisdiction. Food safety attorney Bill Marler represents Zirnstein and Custer. Marler’s law firm, Marler Clark, underwrites Food Safety News. “This case certainly raises some interesting legal issues about journalism in the age of the Internet and social media,” Marler said after the hearing. “It’s going to be interesting to see how courts begin to apply all these new rules over time.” South Dakota Circuit Court Judge Cheryle Gering did not specify when she would issue a written ruling on the motions.

  • Stephanie London

    Don’t we have the right to know?! The media is supposed to be for the citizens to know what’s going on, not for corporate America to feed us bullsh*t!!!!

  • Pinky

    BPI needs to play the progressive game that ABC and the president/progressives play. They need to state, emphatically, that ABC was being RACIST by calling it pink slime. White people really have a pinkish tint to their complexion; therefore, it is RACIST to call this product pink slime. It’s like calling us crackers, the white devil, honkey… I am deeply offended by ABC’s racist activity and it MUST BE INVESTIGATED.

    • Oginikwe

      I am deeply offended by BPI’s class warfare in lying to the proletariats and what exactly was in and/or done to that “lean finely textured beef” or what those proles thought was “ground beef.”

  • Your1Friend

    Thank you, ABC, for calling a spade a spade.
    As for me, I would never allow my children to eat “Pink Slime,” GMOs, or any of Corporate America’s toxic experiments which are now force fed to the American People.

    “I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.” –Harry S Truman

  • Thank you, Bill Marler, for representing the two former USDA inspectors.

  • Gordon

    Its important to note that the issue seems to be about “exercising their First Amendment rights and did not spread dishonest information” as opposed to any food safety issue. This is actually more interesting as it will open the door to lots of “name calling” under this banner. I am hopeful that the defense wins, not because I agree with this but because I am looking forward to how inventive some marketers will be when they comment on competitors products. The fun will start then.

  • i think the majority of these large company’s will do anything they can to make a larger profit. i don’t trust any of them anymore.