Governor Branstad says the lawsuit filed by meat processor BPI will be hard to win, but it’s a legal fight worth waging.

“I know a lawsuit is an expensive proposition, but I hope it does make people think before they just repeat inaccurate smear language,” Branstad says. “There is a responsibility on the part of journalists to be fair and accurate in their presentation of information.”

BPI is suing ABC and others for repeated use of the term “pink slime” to describe the company’s lean, finely-textured beef.

“It’s never easy on a case like that, but I just think when you have somebody that conducts a smear campaign — they know full well there’s no health issues and they purposely use language and I will not use the term because I think it’s inappropriate because it conjures up all kinds of things that are inaccurate,” Branstad says, “and they’re playing on people’s lack of knowledge on food and food processing.”

Branstad says there “ought to be consequences” for broadcasting “inaccurate” information about lean, finely-textured beef.

“Now, what’s going to happen in the courts, but I hope it makes other people think about the language they use and that they need to be careful to be honest and accurate with their descriptions and not use charged words and smear language,” Branstad says.

An ABC vice president has said the lawsuit is “without merit” and said the company will “contest it vigorously.” According to court documents, BPI lost 80 percent of its business in a month because of the negative publicity and closed three of its four plants, including one in Waterloo where 220 people were employed. Iowa’s governor suggests lean, finely-textured beef could make a comeback on the market.

“What you do is you separate the fat from the lean and you end up with a leaner product which is really healthier for you than hamburger that’s got more fat in it and then also this puff of ammonia kills e coli and other bacteria, so you protect the safety,” Branstad says, “and the USDA has always said it’s a safe product.”

Most legal experts say for BPI’s defamation lawsuit to succeed, the company will have to prove the defendants intended to cause harm with their reports.