Diane Sawyer escapes repercussions, but accusations against ABC News and reporter Jim Avila stand after a South Dakota state judge cleared the way to trial for a Beef Products lawsuit against the network for calling its meat product "pink slime." The Wall Street Journal and Reuters report that Judge Cheryle Gering rejected ABC's attempts to have the 2012 defamation complaint dismissed. Gering ruled that a jury could find "clear and convincing evidence" that Avila and the network were "reckless" and "engaged in purposeful avoidance of the truth," including not doing due diligence on iffy informants.
Per MarketWatch, Gering added that a jury could also conclude that ABC wanted to put a "negative spin" on the segment even before it started digging into the story. Beef Products says hundreds of jobs disappeared when it was forced to shutter three of its four plants after the "pink slime" reports, which a company lawyer called "fake news" in front of Gering in January. Because of South Dakota's strict "veggie hate crime" laws, which offer triple damages when the safety of a food product is falsely disparaged, ABC could be slammed with nearly $6 billion in damages. The judge noted that she cleared Sawyer because, as the news anchor, she would've ostensibly not had as much to do with research as others working on the segment. (Read more defamation stories.)