‘Pink Slime’ Case Reminds Some Of An Old Beef With Oprah

A beef company’s lawsuit against ABC seeks damages, but will courts uphold the network’s free speech claim?

By Michael MarksJune 7, 2017 10:50 am, ,

A new lawsuit on food defamation is bringing up memories of an old beef between Amarillo cattle raisers and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

South Dakota-based Beef Products Incorporated is suing ABC for more than $5 billion for referring to its lean, finely textured beef product as ‘pink slime’.

The case echoes a time when Texas beef producers sued Winfrey for billions in lost sales after a food safety segment on her show addressed an ongoing mad cow crisis that had reached Canada.

It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger,” Winfrey said on the 1995 program.

Winfrey ultimately won the case, but that hasn’t stopped the food industry from trying similar suits.

Rita-Marie Cain Reid, a professor of business law at the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, says that there’s never really been an resolution for any of these ‘food libel’ cases.

“Intent has to be proved,” Reid says. “Their argument is you say something enough times, something pejorative, and it creates an impression of the product being unsafe.”

She says that this type of dispute has First Amendment implications.

“There are certainly some free speech issues around that, because generally a news outlet is entitled to use the words it wants to use, and ‘slime’ is not really false when it comes to this product,” Reid says.

The case certainly has some differences from the suit against Winfrey.

“They should notice that the difference in this case from Oprah’s is that she made sort of a ‘spontaneous utterance’ in the context of a real food safety issue,” Reid says. “Mad cow disease was an international concern, and it did get as close to the United States as Canada,” Reid says. “The ABC presentation was a bit of a drum beat of week after week, day after day, talking about this product without any food safety context. So, if there’s evidence that there’s some kind of motive to go after this product, that’s going to be their best case.”

Reid says there is a probability that jurors will be sympathetic to the South Dakota beef company as a part of their community, and that the case’s free speech issues will likely be decided on appeal.


Written by Lila Weatherly.













































The Houston Astros won 7-3 against the Kansas City Royals Monday night, maintaining their winning streak and their place at the top of the American League.


So surprising is the team’s massive success that it has some long-time fans waiting for the other shoe to drop.


“I’m a Houston sports fan, so I know that disappointment is always around the corner,” says Craig Hlavaty, who covers pop culture for the Houston Chronicle. “They could win the World Series and we would still wonder if we were being punked.”


Yet, what may be getting Astros fans going more than the team’s accomplishments, is their conspicuously new fans.


“I think when we started winning I started getting a little aggravated when I started seeing people who I recognized wearing Cubs hats last year now wearing Astros hats,” Hlavaty says. “And I say welcome aboard, but please be respectful of the people who were here when they were only winning 50 games a year.”


Hlavaty says you can spot a bandwagoner by their crisp, mustard-stain-less Astros gear and their lack of childlike excitement over the return of the team’s beloved green alien mascot, Orbit.


But as long as bandwagoners have respect for the fans who’ve stuck around, Hlavaty thinks a win for the Astros would be a win for the whole city.


“We lost the Oilers, we got the Texans back, we’ve had glory with the Rockets,” Hlavaty says. “If the Astros were to do this it would really just cap off, I think, a lot of things for people.”


Written by Lila Weatherly.


















The sixth annual ATX Television Festival kicks off Thursday, where fans of the medium will gather at different venues around Austin for a weekend full of screenings, Q&As with writers and actors and even series reunions.


The festival features cast and crew from popular shows such as “Alias” and “Girls,” as well as a nine-person panel for the “Battlestar Galactica” reunion, which will be presented with Entertainment Weekly and Syfy.


Co-creators Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson founded the festival to celebrate the past, present and future of television, in the same way that other mediums are often honored.


“I think people understand film and music festivals,” McFarland says. “You have to come to our television festival to really understand that it is essentially the television community come to life for a few days.”


She says television has the advantage of time. Since series often air over several years, viewers have the unique opportunity to grow with the characters.


“You know, a movie, at the most you’ve got maybe three hours, and then there may be sequels or what not, but some of these shows have hundreds of hours,” McFarland says. “And the amount of time you spend with these characters and these stories, they really do inform who you are potentially.”


The festival aims to not only attract fans of television, but support those who hope to have a future in the industry. Ten finalists from the “pitch competition” will have the opportunity to pitch their television ideas live to top producers in the field.


McFarland and Gipson are both from Texas, and hope the festival specifically supports fellow natives.


“My hope is that people, especially Texans – because we try to really represent Texas productions and things like that, and work to bring more productions to Texas – come check it out,” McFarland says.



Written by Lila Weatherly.