Ted Rall: LA Times Responds to Charges That It Fired Me as A Favor to LAPD

los angeles times ted rall la times lapd scandal
Written by Ted Rall

Ted Rall responds to the LA Times’ answer to charges that it fired Rall at the behest of the LAPD. The LA Times/LAPD is a team, he adds. Who’d have guessed? And Rall says the paper’s answers are windy and full of errors … commentary.

aNewDomainted rall LA Times Los Angeles Times firing and the LAPD — The Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Police Department finally posted answers to reader and reporter questions regarding how the team-up determined the facts that led to my firing from the Times. It’s nice those two are now on the same side, isn’t it?

The Times’ long and winding defense of its treatment of me after the LAPD accused me of lying about a jaywalking arrest was at long last published today. It reads like lawyers wrote it.

Well, it only took a couple zillion tweets, emails, demand letters and calls from investigative reporters to get someone from The Los Angeles “No One at the Times Will Talk About This” Times to answer the many questions raised by the paper’s firing me as its political cartoonist at the behest of LA police on July 27. 

After a “Readers’ Representative Journal” introduction by one Dierdre Edgar, the unnamed Times editors who wrote this piece throw down a blizzard of misdirection, trivialities and distractions meant to convince us, somehow, that:

(a) there’s nothing weird about the police still having a secret audiotape of a jaywalking arrest from 14 years ago

(b) it’s totally normal for the police to walk said tape over to a newspaper in an attempt to get a cartoonist known for not liking cops fired

(c) said newspaper has no reason to question the veracity or motivation of the cops against said cop-disliking cartoonist, and

(d) said newspaper shouldn’t seek an independent review of the inaudible LAPD tape and faulty evidence the Times used against me, especially after the enhanced version aNewDomain commissioned backed up my story so well.

LA Times Ted Rall controversy Rall fired by Los Angeles Times for criticizing LAPD?The effort falls terribly flat.

Fortunately, readers are smarter than whatever editors came up with the August 19, 2015 Times’ statement. Maybe it is intended to replace that flawed one in some future court action. Who knows anymore?

The Times said it wanted to have “a conversation on newsroom ethics and standards.” At the Times, evidently, a “conversation” is where they talk and you listen. Or when they turn off the comments. Or delete them.

The writers of this statement, which quotes what they said I said extensively, never even called me for comment. This is a Pultizer Prize-winning paper, just to remind you.

I’ll spare you the line-by-line dissection of this ridiculous exercise in corporate media bluster. But it would be a shame, after waiting three weeks (!) for the newspaper to finally explain themselves, not to respond to a few things:

First, I’d like to thank the Times for finally hiring a pair of “forensic audio experts” to analyze the recording. Better late — after firing someone — than never, I always say.

Unfortunately, the Times still hasn’t offered the independent investigation demanded by journalistic ethics and by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. This? Just more spin.

Sadly, editors write: “The experts engaged by the Times, in separate assessments, said they could not hear any mention of handcuffs.”

Why couldn’t Ed Primeau, a Michigan media guy who does audio forensics  for cops all the time, hear the woman demanding that Officer Will Durr “take off his handcuffs?” about halfway through the enhanced tape. It’s audible. Why can’t an audio guy hear what’s obviously audible to lots of non audio pros?

Catalin Grigoras has some impressive credentials, but having a PhD and being known for working with Romanian spies doesn’t make you correct.

The Times is asking everyone who heard that woman on the enhanced tape to believe them — not your lying ears. Listen to the woman yelling that on the tape here.

Notice something? Neither of the Times’ experts disputes the presence of other people at the scene — only that they can’t hear the word “handcuffs.”

The burden of proof in this he said/he said story ought to be on the LA Times/LAPD (gotta love that they’re on the same team!) to prove that my account was a lie. After all, they accused me, and they provided a tape, and that tape was garbage

But this is the LA Times/LAPD, where you’re guilty until proven innocent.

Whatever, I’m having my own audio forensics expert analyze it … someone who still has their ethics intact. And their hearing.

The Times writes:

Rall has written repeatedly that the LAPD ignored his original complaint. Department records show that investigators looked into his allegations, questioned the officer who ticketed Rall, listened to the recording and tried repeatedly to reach Rall. Then-Police Chief Bernard C. Parks sent Rall a letter informing him that an investigation had determined his allegations were unfounded.”

How could they “look into the allegations” without talking to me? I never got a message from them. When I called, they told me nothing. The audio the Times included of an officer trying to leave me message?

Sorry, pal, that’s not me. I don’t know whose voice that it. Any editor who actually worked with me at the Times would recognize my voice and immediately note that that isn’t me.

No communications, followed by a rejection letter? That’s called ignoring your complaint. Which, as most Angelenos who complain to the cops know, is almost always what the LAPD does.

The article cites numerous examples of me talking about my bad experiences with police, with the unsurprising result that I don’t much care for them. So? As I wrote, I have my reasons.

The Times:

A conversation between Durr and Rall is audible, and it is civil. Durr is not heard being rude, ‘belligerent,’ ‘hostile’ or ‘ill-tempered,’ as Rall has asserted. The officer is heard calmly answering Rall’s questions.”

Ted Rall Lapd tapeTrue … sort of. You do hear him whistling into the mic when the angry crowd appeared, which drowns out their complaints and taunts. When that and static were removed from the LAPD-provided WAV file, the voices commenting on my cuff and the cop’s treatment of me are audible. Listen to a comparison here.

And as you know if you’ve watched Alex singing “Singing in the Rain” in “A Clockwork Orange,” audio doesn’t even tell half the story … especially not audio that’s 95-percent static.

The cop knew he was being taped because, as LAPD police allow, he is taping himself. It’s his recorder. He acts accordingly. Listen to the enhanced version here, and you’ll notice he is sarcastically polite on audio, pushing me around and handcuffing me in the nonexistent video we’ll never see. How can you work at a newspaper and not understand this simple playing-to-the-tape idea?

The Times still hasn’t tried to have the tape enhanced. Or they did, and they’re not sharing the results. How come? Because all that stuff — the angry crowd, the handcuffs, etc. — is on that tape. Again, all the independent audio pros I hired did was clean up the static and whistling.

Nor does Rall express any complaints about how is he being treated,” adds the Times.

I love this part. I wrote that I was compliant and polite. If I had been heard complaining about my treatment on tape, then I would have been lying. Pretzel logic!

In a 2009 essay for another publication, I misremembered the cop as chucking my wallet (in which I carry my license), not just the license. Got me!

I suppose I’m lucky Nick Goldberg didn’t have me executed … even though I got this very important fact right in the piece I wrote for, you know, him.

Officer Will Durr “in his entire career, he said, he had never handcuffed anyone for jaywalking.” But he sure seems to have handcuffed someone for a less serious offense than jaywalking, in an article in the Times! We have a call into Durr for comment.

“Durr’s then-supervisor, Sgt. Russell Kilby, who investigated the allegations” — does the Times even know how that sounds? — “described Durr as ‘a non-problem officer,’ ‘a nice guy’ and ‘a hard worker.’” Well, he would say that. Though Kilby is retired now. Anyway, it’s nice, except for all that snottily making fun of the suspect in that Times piece about “aggressive driving.”

The LAPD, Edgar says, “analyzed the tape.” Their own tape. Shockingly, it checked out! News at 11.

As before, this latest communiqué raises more questions than it answers. Here are some below:

1. Who gave my file and audiotape to the Times: the LAPD, or the LAPPL police union?

2. Who received it at the Times?

3. Is the version Times editors Dropboxed to me, before they fired me, a dub of something the LAPD gave the Times, or is it the same?

4. We do know that the editorial board, typically the decision-makers in the firing of a cartoonist, was left out of the loop. Why?

5. And who decided to fire me in such a public, humiliating way?

6. What did the LAPD or LAPPL tell their contact at The Times they wanted — and what was their true purpose in providing this information?

7. What will a highly-qualified independent audio forensics expert say about those suspicious clicks?

8. Why is the required ID information missing from the recording (location, ID of suspect, time, day)? Why is the tape so short?

9. What does the Times have to say about the angry people on the enhanced version? The ones you can clearly hear here, that they and their experts claim not to hear?

10. Why didn’t the Times investigate the provenance of the tape before it fired me?

11. Why do they still refuse to let me tell my side of the story to the editorial board — and to allow an independent investigation?

Cut the crap, Timesmen. Do the right thing.

Retract your defamatory “A Note to Readers” from July 28, 2015.

Issue an apology.

This long and misinformative letter you published reads just like something you are preparing for a courtcase. Perhaps you are. It reads like you are readying an argument to have the enhanced tape I’ve published prevented from being heard by a jury, in the favor of your static-filled one.

And you say those audio engineers enhanced the tape? I posted mine here for all to hear. You posted a lot of audio, including an answering machine where a policeman leaves a message for a guy who doesn’t even sound like me, saying it is me.

But you don’t post your enhanced audio. Why?

Again, do the right thing. Be transparent. Tell your readers exactly how this tape made its way to you, from whom and to whom, and why.

And put my drawings back in the paper. Especially the ones that give the cops a hard time for beating and killing people.

For aNewDomain and the new SkewedNews, I’m Ted Rall.