UPDATE July 31, 2015 8:06 a.m. ET: Cleaned Up LAPD Tape of Ted Rall Released Today: Cops Mistaken About Rall Never Getting Handcuffed
aNewDomain — On Monday, The Los Angeles Times fired me, citing LAPD “evidence” that I had lied about getting mistreated by a Los Angeles cop as he ticketed me for jaywalking. In 2001. Now, the paper has published an Editor’s Note, which explains its decision to fire me after the LAPD came knocking on its door with a mostly inaudible audio tape that supposedly proved the LAPD’s case.
I was never permitted to tell my side of the story in the meetings discussing my fate. I did that here early Tuesday a.m. My response to the latest twist, below.
LA Times Editorial Page Editor Nick Goldberg’s note is remarkable for its unfairness, illogic and deference to the LAPD — three aspects that ought to disqualify anyone from working in media. Here it is, in its entirety, with my reactions and responses interleaved throughout.
In a May 11 post on The Times‘ OpinionLA blog, Ted Rall — a freelance cartoonist whose work appears regularly in The Times — described an incident in which he was stopped for jaywalking on Melrose Avenue in 2001. Rall said he was thrown up against a wall, handcuffed and roughed up by an LAPD motorcycle policeman who also threw his driver’s license into the sewer. Rall also wrote that dozens of onlookers shouted in protest at the officer’s conduct.”
“Since then, the Los Angeles Police Department has provided records about the incident, including a complaint Rall filed at the time. An audiotape of the encounter recorded by the police officer does not back up Rall’s assertions; it gives no indication that there was physical violence of any sort by the policeman or that Rall’s license was thrown into the sewer or that he was handcuffed. Nor is there any evidence on the recording of a crowd of shouting onlookers.”
You can read my detailed response to these accusations here. If you’re in a hurry, at least listen to the audiotape for yourself here. It will take about six minutes. The audiotape is about 90 percent blank/random noise.
Since the tape is mostly blank/random noise — something the LAPD concedes in its official transcript of same — it is true that there’s “no indication that there was physical violence of any sort by the policeman or that Rall’s license was thrown into the sewer or that he was handcuffed.” How could there be?
It’s an audiotape!
And, even if the tape had been of high quality — that is far from the case — how would you hear me being roughed up, or handcuffed, or my license being tossed?
Contrary to Goldberg’s statement, however, there may be some evidence of the crowd — and the crowd was there.
In Rall’s initial complaint to the LAPD, he describes the incident without mentioning any physical violence or handcuffing but says that the police officer was ‘belligerent and hostile’ and that he threw Rall’s license into the ‘gutter.’ The tape depicts a polite interaction.”
For what you can hear, yes, sort of. You can hear the sarcasm in the officer’s voice. You can hear him whistling and humming.
Of course, he knew he was being taped. I didn’t know that at the time.
I remember thinking that his behavior was odd. For example, he spoke politely about returning my license, while throwing it on the ground with a smirk. Why did he do that? Now I get it. He was playing to the tape. Obviously.
In addition, Rall wrote in his blog post that the LAPD dismissed his complaint without ever contacting him. Department records show that internal affairs investigators made repeated attempts to contact Rall, without success.”
In my version of events here, you can see the LAPD call log. Even the year is wrong in it. Anyone can falsify a call log. Fact: They didn’t call, or if they did, they didn’t leave a message. I am easy to reach by phone.
“Asked to explain these inconsistencies, Rall said he stands by his blog post.”
“As to why he didn’t mention any physical abuse in his letter to the LAPD in 2001, Rall said he didn’t want to make an enemy of the department, in part because he hosted a local radio talk show at the time. After listening to the tape, Rall noted that it was of poor quality and contained inaudible segments.”
It’s true that I didn’t want to alienate the LAPD. As many people know, especially black people, cops can be dangerous.
I was also far more focused on the long-term injustice — being charged with a crime I didn’t commit — than the short-term, minutes-long humiliation of being detained in handcuffs on the street.
Speaking of accuracy, it would be more accurate to say that the tape is mainly inaudible, and contains some partly audible segments.
However, the recording and other evidence provided by the LAPD raise serious questions about the accuracy of Rall’s blog post. Based on this, the piece should not have been published.
Rall’s future work will not appear in The Times.”
“The Los Angeles Times is a trusted source of news because of the quality and integrity of the work its journalists do. This is a reminder of the need to remain vigilant about what we publish.” —Nicholas Goldberg, Editor of the Editorial Pages
The Los Angeles Times hasn’t covered itself with glory with this decision. Rather, it has sent a loud message to its editorial staff, reporters, freelancers and readers: If you produce work that the police or other powerful interests dislike, The Los Angeles Times will fire you.
I am professionally and personally insulted — but I’ll get over it.
Cops lie. Everyone knows that.
Journalism, on the other hand, suffers irreparable damage whenever editors sell out their writers for political favors.
Cover image: LA Times newsroom by BusBlog.TonyPierce.com, All Rights Reserved.