After reading it — and, in fact, reading and re-reading its painstaking explanation of how the plaintiff’s product is produced and used — and then looking back at some of the ABC reports, 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.
Moreover, I was especially intrigued by the claims that ABC had blown off all the evidence Beef Products presented to the network’s producers saying that their first reports were wrong, and that ABC not only did not correct them on air, but stepped up its campaign against “pink slime.” 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: Beef Products alleges that it provided ABC with all kinds of evidence — including research papers from respected independent agencies and even testimony from the head of the Consumer Federation of America’s Food Safety Institute - refuting ABC’s take on “pink slime.”
Given the alarm sounded against “pink slime” by ABC and then by so many other news outlets and consumer groups that piled on, my buying into the idea that what Beef Products puts on our grocery shelves is actually “lean, finally textured beef” probably makes it seem like some of the slime has gotten into my brain. But I’ve read the 256-page complaint - which is a good place for a reporter to start before digging in and seeing what ABC’s answers are, including whether and why it chose to ignore the countervailing evidence that Beef Products offered.
Whichever side is right, there is already enough beef here for a terrific story that pushes beyond the ABC PR department’s standard response so far; that the suit “is without merit” and “we will contest it vigorously.”
2. Romney as debater:
As explained here in June, I’m still hoping for a good report on what exactly the rules are for the upcoming presidential debates and what the points of contention were when the two sides negotiated them. Who wanted the candidates seated versus standing at a podium? Who wanted more or less structure? Did both sides agree from the start that the second debate (on October 16) would be a town hall format?
Who wanted which debate subjects to come first, second, and third? (It seems to me that President Obama won that negotiation, if there was one; foreign policy, which seems to be his strong suit and underscores his status as president, is the third debate topic, on October 22. That means it will be the debate closest in viewers’ memories as they think about their votes 15 days later.)
I’d also like to see a report reviewing how Romney did in his other one-on-one debates: when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the senate in 1994 and when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. We know he generally handled himself well in the multi-candidate primary debates this year, but how does he do when the focus is solely on him and one other opponent?