aNewDomain commentary — On July 27 the Los Angeles Times fired me as its editorial cartoonist, announcing my dismissal with a humiliating “Editor’s Note” that falsely accused me of being a liar and fabulist in a May 2015 column.
Three days after the firing, I was able to back up what I’d written. But the Times refused to acknowledge this on its online note — or to investigate the matter further.
This is stranger: The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) published a gloating blog post right after the firing titled “Applaud the LA Times firing of cartoonist Ted Rall.” The union has since removed the post, but it still exists in this LAPPL press release.
Now, I wasn’t surprised the cops didn’t like me.
Since 2009, I’ve drawn more than a dozen cartoons criticizing the LAPD as violently abusive of civilians, overly militarized and inept.
Even so, the police union blog at LAPD.com went over the top, saying:
So many within the LAPD were pleasantly surprised … we especially appreciate the Times’ reaction, as the media in general often seems eager to publish material portraying law enforcement in a negative light.”
The LAPPL wrote this in a blog (which vanished into 404-dom after The Guardian wrote about it this past Saturday, but it still exists in the form of a news release it sent out here).
The LAPPL statement contained a thinly-veiled threat aimed at other journalists critical of law enforcement, too:
“We hope other news publications will take note of the Times’ willingness to hear and respond to the other side of the story and look at the facts.”
According to The Los Angeles Times’ note penned by Editorial Page Editor Nick Goldberg:
(T)he Los Angeles Police Department has provided records about the incident … ”
The records Goldberg (above left) referred to included the audiotape dub editors say was used to discredit me. That’s the same audio dub that engineers aNewDomain and I hired now say was “almost certainly” spliced and was initially used to discredit me.
But the LAPD refused to confirm it was the one that provided the tape to the Times
Then who did give the tape to the Times?
If it was someone other than the LAPD, why did Goldberg lie about the source in his Editor’s Note or otherwise manage to get this important detail so wrong?
One possibility: The LA police union (LAPPL) was the one who complained to the Times and walked the 2001 police tape over as proof.
Back in 2001, after I filed an Internal Affairs complaint against LAPD Officer Will Durr for falsely charging me with jaywalking and being rude and unprofessional, Durr no doubt attended a hearing about my complaint. (I wasn’t invited to attend.)
As a member of the LAPPL, he would have had the right to bring his union representative to this meeting.
I have to wonder whether the LAPPL union rep snatched a copy of my file — and a dub of the LAPD audiotape. If so, did he add it to a “just in case” stash of purloined LAPD evidence at LAPPL headquarters, where it sat until earlier this year?
If the LAPPL used the audiotape of my jaywalking arrest to get me fired from the Times, this behavior would be consistent with the union’s attitude that their pension fund’s ownership of substantial portions of stock in a newspaper or its parent company buys it the right to get rid of editorial staffers whose work it deems insufficiently supportive of the police.
In 2009, the LAPPL (which then represented firefighters as well as cops) pension fund invested $30 million in Platinum Equity, a private Beverly Hills equity firm that owned the San Diego Union-Tribune.
On May 21, 2009, The Los Angeles Times reported:
“As League President Paul M. Weber views it, that makes the league part owner in the flagging Tribune and league officials are none too happy with the paper’s consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits.”
Weber wrote this in a March 26, 2009 letter to Platinum CEO Tom Gores:
Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced.”
More from the 2009 Times story:
Weber, in an interview, emphasized that the League is not demanding changes in the paper’s news coverage of the issue or in its staff of reporters. ‘It’s just these people on the opinion side. There is not even an attempt to be even-handed. They’re one step away from saying, ‘these public employees are parasites … ‘”
Nowadays the $18.4 billion LAPPL pension fund is managed by Oaktree Capital. Oaktree is the single largest stockholder of Tribune Publishing, parent company of The Los Angeles Times.
Does the LAPPL still believe its pension fund “ownership” of newspapers entitles it to change out “these people on the opinion side?”
So far, it has not commented on this or other questions.
It would certainly be consistent with my firing at the behest of the LAPD — or perhaps more precisely, the LAPPL.