ABC News learned that sliming a company can cost a lot of money. An attorney for Beef Products Inc. told CNN Money, BPI was awarded more than $177 million in the settlement of its defamation lawsuit against ABC because its beef was called “pink slime” by the network.
CNN found a footnote in Disney’s corporate earnings report that the parent company of ABC paid $177 million “incurred in connection with the settlement of litigation.” That is roughly the annual ad revenue for World News, CNN said. Disney did not specify how that amount was spent or respond to CNN’s request for comment.
BPI attorney Dan Webb told CNN based on their research this award was the “largest” media defamation settlement in U.S. history. Food Safety News reported that it appeared the $177 million was Disney’s payment on top of the amount its insurance covered.
The beef company sued ABC over a series of 2012 reports in which ABC programs and often reporter Jim Avila disparaged its lean finely texture beef (LFTB) by repeatedly using the description “pink slime.”
BPI sued ABC over its coverage, especially news segments on March 7, 8, and 9, 2012. ABC reporting against LFTB spanned two entire months, often driven by correspondent Jim Avila and the “whistleblowers” he interviewed. Avila and his colleagues often called the meat “pink slime,” saying that term 52 times on air in just two weeks. The networks even took a victory lap when grocery stores stopped utilizing LFTB. Following the broadcasts, demand for LFTB dropped and the company was forced to downsize dramatically.
The firm sued ABC for $1.9 billion in South Dakota, which can award triple damages for disparagement of a food’s safety. The jury trial in South Dakota began June 5, 2017, and was settled June 24, 2017. ABC continued to stand by its reporting and at least one of the many videos remains online.
The exact settlement terms were not made public, but BPI spokesperson Tom Becker told The Media Research Center at the time it was “a great point for the company. They’ve been vindicated.”
Becker also said, the settlement allowed BPI to move on and “rebuild the business that was taken away from them.” He emphasized that the safety of the beef the company sells was, “a crucial part of the case.”
“This is a good product — 100 percent beef, 100 percent safe,” he added. “That didn’t get lost on the jury.”