“Dateline NBC” falsely accused an eye clinic of scheduling needless cataract surgery, the clinic charged in a $ 6 million lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court.

“What Dateline NBC did to this practice, its doctors and honest employees is reprehensible behavior that cannot be tolerated,” said Mark McDaniel, executive director of the Southeastern Eye Center.

The network defended its report in a statement issued after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit names NBC and “Dateline NBC” reporter Brian Ross as defendants. The plaintiffs are Central Carolina Surgical Eye Associates and Dr. C. Richard Epes of Southeastern Eye Center.

The lawsuit says NBC falsely accused officials at the eye clinic of engaging in unnecessary surgery and unethical practices in a May 4 broadcast that implied a healthy woman who posed as a patient was minutes away from needless surgery.

McDaniel repeated his claims that the woman, Beatrice Caine, was told by two different doctors she did not need cataract surgery. He said she called back to try to schedule surgery because NBC was facing a deadline.

NBC stands by story

NBC issued a statement saying it stood by its story and that it was fair and accurate:

“‘Dateline NBC’ broadcast what happened step by step in that clinic, letting viewers decide for themselves what we had found.”

Revenues at Southeastern, a $ 12-million-a-year business, dropped 30% in the three months following the broadcast, McDaniel said.

NBC said the clinic was trying to take advantage of the network following its February apology to General Motors Corp.

“Dateline NBC” apologized to GM to settle a lawsuit. NBC acknowledged it attached incendiary devices to a GM pickup so a fire would erupt after a test crash in a report about the design of some pickups.

The head of NBC News, Michael Gartner, resigned after the apology.