Famous Journalist Brill’s Beef with ABC

Well-know journalist Steven Brill, who founded Brill’s Content, recently turned his critical eye to Beef Products Inc. (BPI) and its lawsuit against ABC. Brill, also a legal writer and entrepreneur who also started American Lawyer magazine, said of BPI’s suit: “as an aficionado of these cases, I can report that this is the most detailed, persuasive complaint of its kind that I have ever read.”

Brill’s analysis of the case appeared on Reuters on Sept. 18, and was highly critical of ABC’s attack on the beef industry.

Beef Products Inc. (BPI) filed a lawsuit against ABC News on September 13, claiming that ABC had knowingly and recklessly campaigned against the use of “Lean, Finely Textured Beef,” which ABC dubbed “pink slime.” According to the lawsuit, BPI had to lay off 700 of its 1,300 employees after it lost 60 percent of its business, due to bad publicity from ABC News.

He describes ABC’s reporting “as if Upton Sinclair a his epic novel ‘The Jungle’ that took readers inside the gruesome meat packing plants of the early twentieth century had been reborn in the person of [Diane] Sawyer and lead on-air reporter Jim Avila.” 

Based on multiple readings of the lawsuit’s “painstaking explanation” of how LFTB is made, Brill said, “ I began to believe that it was Beef Products that was slimed. I actually found myself believing that this may not be ‘The Jungle, Part Two’; that what the company produces really is the ‘lean, finally textured beef,’ or ‘LFTB’ that Beef Products’ complaint says it is; that it is real meat, not “filler” or “gelatin,” as it was described on ABC; and that it is safe and has been deemed so by federal inspectors and officials who were not paid off or unduly influenced by corporate politics and lobbying.”

He also noted that BPI claims it provided evidence to ABC of the safety of its product, which BPI says ABC ignored. “If that’s true, it could establish the kind of ‘actual malice’ or ‘reckless disregard’ for the truth that would put ABC in real legal jeopardy. Indeed, for me this is the most compelling part of the complaint.”

In addition to Brill’s Content and American Lawyer, Brill founded CourtTV and Journalism Online and has written several books including “Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools.”

Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella is a staff writer for the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute.