Witness At Beef Trial Testifies ABC’s Jim Avila ‘Said F-You and Hung Up’

By Chris Ariens 

The case of BPI vs. ABC continues in a South Dakota courtroom this week.

Beef Products International is suing ABC News and correspondent Jim Avila over reporting on Lean Finely Textured Beef, or what critics have called Pink Slime. David Theno, a microbiologist and meat scientist testified that Avila had reached out to him with the potential of being interviewed for their reports.

Jurors heard Theno’s videotaped testimony Monday in which he recalled a testy conversation with Avila.


“He told me I didn’t know a damn thing about it. I was a shill for the company, and he hung up,” Theno testified. Theno called Avila back and told him that if he had any integrity he would want to hear the other side of the story.

“Then he said ‘F— you,’ and hung up,” Theno said, according to a report in the Sioux City Journal.

Jurors also heard videotaped testimony from three ABC News staffers who’d worked on the stories. From the Journal:

Brian Hartman, a producer who worked with Avila on many of the reports, was asked by BPI lawyer Erik Connolly why broadcasts repeatedly referred to LFTB as being “low-grade” trimmings once only used for pet food and cooking oil, despite having letters from BPI and the American Meat Institute that said the trimmings were of similar quality to the cuts from which they came. Jurors were shown copies of letters from BPI and the AMI, both sent to ABC before its initial broadcast about LFTB.

“I didn’t even read this letter as far as I can tell,” Hartman said of the letter from the AMI.