ABC Must Face Defamation Case Over ‘Pink Slime’ Reports

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC News Inc. lost a bid to dismiss a defamation lawsuit by Beef Products Inc. over reports calling the company’s lean, finely textured beef product “pink slime.”

The allegations in the complaint that ABC broadcast false statements that injured the Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based company’s reputation are sufficient for the case to proceed, state court judge Cheryle Gering said today in a ruling.

The company has supplied its product, which is used to reduce the fat content of ground beef, to McDonald’s Corp., Burger King Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Yum! Brands Inc.

“This was a ruling on a preliminary motion to dismiss, not a ruling on the merits,” Jeffrey W. Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, said in an e-mail. “We will defend our reporting vigorously on the merits.”

Declining business the company attributes to sustained ABC reporting led to the closing of three Beef Products facilities and the firing of about 700 workers, an attorney for the company said when the complaint was filed in 2012.

The news organization published a nightly “blacklist” of grocery stores selling “pink slime,” interfering with Beef Products’ business relationships, according to the complaint.

The case is Beef Products Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., 12-cv-292, Circuit Court for the First Judicial Circuit, Union County, South Dakota (Elk Point).

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