Fresh off a trial against ABC News seeking billions of dollars in damages, Chicago attorney Dan Webb says national media outlets did a poor job in covering court proceedings of the so-called “pink slime” case.
“I don’t think the media wanted to hear about it,” he said in an interview in a mock courtroom located in the tony Chicago offices of Winston & Strawn. “The question is did the media protect its own? That’s the question,” he said.
Webb represented BPI, Beef Products Incorporated, a family owned South Dakota business suppling ground beef to supermarkets and fast-food restaurants. In 2012, BPI sued ABC News after a series of reports in which the network referred to a beef mixture produced by the company as “pink slime.”
“Called it pink slime over 700 times and got every major grocery store chain in America to boycott and not sell the product,” Webb said.
In its lawsuit BPI asked for nearly $2-billion in damages.
“Look ABC went on a crusade against a small company in South Dakota,” Webb alleged.
In June, mid-trial ABC News settled the case, but correspondent Jim Avila said he and his network stood by their report. “We are not retracting anything. We are not apologizing for anything,” Avila said outside the courthouse in Elk Point, South Dakota.
“ABC can say anything they want to. The fact is this case settled,” Webb countered. The financial terms of the settlement are confidential and not public information.
A former U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, Dan Webb has been in the glare of the bright lights of news since 15 Cook County judges were convicted in Operation Greylord in the 1980s.
He served as a special prosecutor in Washington in the Iran-Contra investigation. And has high praise for current Russia special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Bob Mueller is an extraordinarily talented person,” he said. “I hear Republicans now criticize Mueller, I consider that phony unjustified criticism.”
In federal courtrooms, Webb represented congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who was convicted on charges of misuse of federal funds and governor George Ryan, who Webb still believes was innocent of corruption charges. He said the conviction of Cook County Judge David Shields, who he believes was likewise innocent, was a low point in his legal career.
“First of all, Judge Shields was a personal friend of mine. Ok and I live in the world where I am loyal to friends. Dave Shields I thought got caught up in a case that he was innocent of,” Webb said of Shields who was accused of taking a bribe in a federal investigation termed Operation Gambat. “When he was convicted was one of the worst days of my career as a trial lawyer.”
Asked about the wide scope of political corruption in Chicago and Illinois, Webb bristled. “You know I take issue with that a little bit. Every time I hear on Fox News an attack that Chicago is nothing but a cesspool or corruption,” he said. “We have problems in this city. For example, the current problem of gang violence and the murder rate is unacceptable. But there is not easy solution to that,” he continued. “But that doesn’t justify Sean Hannity, or anyone else, going on the air and trashing the city.”
In response Sean Hannity replied in an email: “NOTHING IS BEING done. It's pathetic this is not being fixed, and I will continue to speak out vs the incompetence of government not fixing this problem until every precious life in Chicago is protected.”
But said Webb, a lifelong Republican, “When I hear Fox News attack this city…that we don’t even deserve to be part of America I get upset about that.”