Attorneys for Beef Products Incorporated played taped witness depositions Monday in court in their defamation lawsuit against ABC Broadcasting and reporter Jim Avila.
The company says ABC’s portrayal of its Lean Finely Textured Beef product as “pink slime” forced them to close three of the four plants that made the product, and layoff 700 workers. One of the depositions was with food safety expert David Theno.
Theno talked about a phone conversation he had with Avila. He says he tried to get Avila to listen to why LFTB was safe. He says he told Avila as a journalist, he should have journalistic integrity and at least listen to the other side of the story. Theno says Avila responded,”You don’t have any integrity, you are just a shill for the company. I don’t need to hear this.” He says Avila then swore at him and hung up.
Theno says he was just trying to present the company’s side of the issue. “He didn’t have to use my side of the story, but I thought he should at least hear my side of the story,” Theno says. He was then asked if he thought he insulted Avila’s journalistic integrity before the story. “I don’t think I insulted his integrity, I think I typified it fairly,” Theno responded.
There were also taped depositions from ABC news producers who talked about how ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer said she wished that citizens would march to grocery stores demanding explanations about why they carried ground beef containing LFTB from BPI that ABC’s reports alleged was pink slime and potentially unsafe.
The trial continues in Union County District Court in Elk Point, South Dakota.
(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)