Oprah Airs An Episode About Mad Cow Disease

Winfrey's influence reaches far beyond pop culture and into unrelated industries where many believe she has the power to cause enormous market swings and radical price changes with a single comment.

During a show about mad cow disease with Howard Lyman (aired on April 16, 1996), Winfrey exclaimed, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!" Texas cattlemen sued her and Lyman in early 1998 for "false defamation of perishable food" and "business disparagement", claiming that Winfrey's remarks subsequently sent cattle prices tumbling, costing beef producers some USD$12 million. On February 26, after a trial spanning over two months in an Amarillo, Texas court in the thick of cattle country, a jury found Winfrey and Lyman were not liable for damages. (After the trial, she received a postcard from Roseanne Barr reading, “Congratulations, you beat the meat!”) In June 2005 the first case of mad cow disease in a cow native to the United States was detected in Texas. The USDA concluded that it was most likely infected in Texas prior to 1997.

AMARILLO, Texas (CNN) -- Talk show host Oprah Winfrey was accused of creating a "lynch mob mentality" among members of her studio audience to produce a "scary" story about the safety of beef, according to attorneys for a group of Texas cattle producers suing Winfrey over a 1995 episode of her show.

"The message of the show was never meant to be where opinions are shared. The show was meant to be scary," said David Mullin, an attorney for the cattle producers, during opening statements in the trial Wednesday. "The truth is not as interesting. It doesn't produce ratings."