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ABC News is defending its “pink slime” comments as “imaginative expression” and “rhetorical hyperbole,” Courthouse News Service reported.

As iMediaEthics has written, Beef Products Inc. filed a defamation lawsuit in September claiming ABC News’ calling its “lean finely textured beef” “pink slime” led to “reduced demand.”   ABC News defended its reporting at the time.

In a “motion to dismiss,” ABC News argued saying “pink slime” was OK because:

“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. And the ABC News reports cannot reasonably be understood to imply that LFTB is ‘not safe for public consumption’ or ‘not nutritious.’ The reports repeatedly state that LFTB is ‘safe to eat,’ though ‘not as nutritious as ground beef’ – a viewpoint BPI does not challenge.”

iMediaEthics wrote to BPI’s Rich Jochum who referred us to BPI lawyer Erik Connolly.  Connolly told iMediaEthics by phone that the “only on-the-record statement at this point is plaintiffs are moving to remand the case back to state court. We also will oppose the motion to dismiss. We believe the complaint sets forth valid claims.”

Courthouse News posted the “memorandum in support of ABC defendants’ motion to dismiss.”  In that memo, ABC News’ lawyers argue that “the case thus poses a direct challenge to the right of ABC News to inform the public on a matter of obvious and legitimate public interest.”

The lawyers summarized ABC News’ reporting on the product and noted that ABC News aired excerpts of BPI’s defenses of it in letter, video and press conference form. And the memo said that ABC News “repeatedly” reported the product “is safe.”  Concerning the language of the report, the memo argued that the lawsuit is really over how ABC News “characterized” how the product is made, which doesn’t “give rise to legal claims.”

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“They are either expressions of opinion that are not provably false, or they are substantially true,” ABC News claimed, while separately defending the “pink slime” phrase.

“Pink slime may sound unflattering or critical.  But it is precisely because the long-used term is inherently a subjective assessment that it does not give rise to a legal claim.  Simply put, pink slime is not actionable because it is not a ‘provably false statement of fact.'”

Further, ABC News defended against BPI’s claims that calling the product “slime” doesn’t square with the “preferred dictionary definition” because it was a “value judgment.”

ABC News equated labeling the product “pink slime” with name calling in its defense.

Check out the whole memorandum.

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ABC News Calls for $1 Billion ‘Pink Slime’ Libel Lawsuit to be Dismissed

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