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ABC News asks judge to toss 'pink slime' lawsuit

Associated Press Modified: October 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Lawyers for ABC News asked a judge Wednesday to toss out a $1 billion defamation lawsuit filed by a South Dakota-based meat processor over a meat product that critics dub "pink slime," saying the news organization did not knowingly disparage the company or its product.

Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News Inc. in September, claiming the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe.

The lawsuit seeks damages under South Dakota's defamation law, as well as a 1994 state law that allows businesses to sue anyone who knowingly spreads false information that a food product is unsafe. The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product — officially known as lean, finely textured beef.

The lawsuit named American Broadcasting Companies Inc., ABC News Inc., ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and ABC correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley as defendants. It also names Gerald Zirnstein, the U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist who named the product "pink slime," former federal food scientist Carl Custer, and Kit Foshee, a former Beef Products Inc. quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC.

In the motion to dismiss filed in federal court Wednesday, lawyers for ABC News said that while the term "pink slime" may come across as unappetizing, it is not incorrect. Lean, finely textured beef is both pink and — like all ground beef — has a slimy texture, the lawyers argued.

"That term, while unflattering, does not convey false facts about the color or texture of LFTB and is precisely the kind of 'imaginative expression' and 'rhetorical hyperbole' that is constitutionally protected," a memorandum attached to the motion said.

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