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ABC: 'Pink Slime' Protected By First Amendment

December 17, 2013, 6:09 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

ABC: 'Pink Slime' Protected By First Amendment
ELK POINT, SD -

ABC News wants a South Dakota Judge to throw out the $1 billion defamation lawsuit it faces following a series of reports on a product critics called ‘pink slime.’

The product known as Lean Finely Textured Beef is made by Beef Products Inc. located in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota.

In the spring of 2012, BPI says it faced a nationwide backlash after ABC News ran critical reports of the beef product. BPI says the reports ruined its business and forced the company to close three plants and cut 700 jobs.

BPI says stores pulled the product after ABC reported on BPI's process of separating fat from beef trimmings and then puffing the product with ammonia before adding it back into ground beef.

The reports featured critics of the process and the product and prompted the South Dakota company to sue ABC News.

In court Tuesday, attorneys for ABC News argued that the news organization reported fairly on the topic by citing the USDA and FDA, which stated that the product was safe to eat.

They also say critics featured in the reports are protected under the First Amendment and can call the product 'pink slime.'

"Our defendants have as much right to use the epithet pink slime as the producer does the euphemism Lean Finely Textured Beef," ABC attorney Kevin Baine said.

But attorneys for BPI say presenting the negative side of the product as part of a news story must be factual. They argue ABC News was not factual in its coverage.

"The objective was to damage BPI's reputation and ruin its relationship with its customers and they succeeded," BPI attorney Erik Connolly said.

BPI says the case must continue toward trial if the judge believes a reasonable juror would think the tone of the ABC News reports was meant to damage BPI.

The judge will consider arguments before deciding whether she will issue a written ruling dismissing the $1 billion lawsuit.

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