Friday, August 25, 2017

Disney settles 'pink slime' lawsuit for $177 million

Illustration by Sam Woolley for Splinter
The Walt Disney Co. was potentially on the hook for almost $6 billion in the largest defamation lawsuit in history, but has reportedly settled with Beef Products Inc. for $177 million, Rich Duprey reports for The Motley Fool. It's the largest payout for a libel claim against a media company that the Media Law Resource Center has recorded. BPI had sued ABC-TV (owned by Disney) after a 2012 investigative report on "pink slime," the term a former U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist used for BPI's "lean finely textured beef" added to ground beef. The report said it previously was used only in dog food or cooking oil. The program created an instant uproar, and major supermarket chains announced they would drop any beef that contained the product, while Walmart, Kroger and others began offering shoppers ground beef without it, Duprey reports.

"What’s striking isn’t just the size of the sum, or that ABC agreed to it before its lawyers started making their case at trial," David Uberti writes for Splinter. "It’s that the network continues to stand by its reporting (no retraction, no corrections, nada), which remains on its site. In a world where the free press is under attack from politicians, the public, and billionaire Silicon Valley vampires, one of the few companies with the resources to mount a legal defense of journalism instead chose to pay its assailants to shut up and go away."

Jonathan Peters, a media law professor at the University of Georgia, told Uberti that the case was alarming because it could encourage corporations to sue: "No matter how many times ABC says that it stands by its reporting, the settlement itself undermines that message."

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