ABC reporter Jim Avila testifies by video deposition in BPI laws - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

ABC reporter Jim Avila testifies by video deposition in BPI lawsuit


ABC News reporter Jim Avila testified that he first got wind of ABC wanting to do a story about LFTB on March 6, 2012 from ABC producer Claire Brinberg.

Avila stated that he knew a little about LFTB from articles he had from for The Daily, and the 2009 New York Times article. 

In his deposition, Avila was asked where he first heard of the two-word derogatory term to refer to LFTB. Avila referred to those articles he read prior to March 2012.
"It was a well known term. The New York Times used it in 2009 and won a Pulitzer Prize for that story. There was the McDonald's controversy and it was used predominately . It was prominent that that was the name it was known by. And the day before [the first ABC report aired] it [LFTB] was called "pink slime."

Avila  stated that he used the two-word derogatory term to refer to "lean finely textured beef" because it rolled off the tongue easier and was more relatable to consumers. 

Avila was also questioned about the credibility of the witnesses he used in his reports.

He said they were credible, and no one rebutted against them in either The Daily article, or the 2009 New York Times report. 

Another part of Wednesday's testimony was the question if LFTB was unlawfully approved by the USDA. The person put into question by Avila's report was former Assistant Secretary of the USDA Jo Ann Smith. She held that title from 1989 till January of 1993.

While Avila never concluded himself that Smith did anything wrong -- he referred to her in an e-mail with colleagues as a USDA hack. 

"I think the word 'hack' in this instance talks about industry ties. It illustrates that she was from the industry and that she was a government approved official," said Jim Avila, ABC reporter.

Smith denied any wrong doing. She stated she wasn't at the USDA at the time LFTB was approved in September 1993.  Smith felt the ABC reports hurt her reputation. 

"They falsely accused me of something that I did not do; and claims that I did not make. It attacked...what I had worked all my life to try to protect. And that is to be honest and sincere in what you do," said Jo Ann Smith, former Assistant Secretary of the USDA.

Smith resigned from her position at the USDA in January of 1993 when President Bill Clinton took office because her position was a presidential appointed one. She was appointed to the position in 1989 by George H.W. Bush. 

Wednesday the jury also heard from ABC correspondent David Kerley who did two reports on LFTB, Kerry Smith who works at ABC, Joshua Applestone who is a butcher from New York, New York that was interviewed for the March 8th report.

Testimony ended Wednesday with a video deposition from former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein. His testimony will pick up Thursday morning.

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