The Strange Case of the LA Times Cartoonist Fired for Being Too-Critical of LA Police

by on August 12, 2015 · 2 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Media

Ted Rall

Ted Rall

Now that the LA Times company has bought the San Diego Union Tribune, it’s only fair that we’re able to take shots at the largest newspaper on the West Coast.

Take the case of Ted Rall. Until recently, he was a political cartoonist for the LA Times, with his raw, notable drawings gracing the pages of the op-ed section.  He was also a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Rall is a no-holds bar kind of cartoonist. And he often took shots at the LA Police Department. Especially recently, when the LAPD announced a new aggressive policy of ticketing jay-walkers in downtown LA.  This inspired Rall to recount his experience in 2001 – 14 years ago – of being roughed up by an LA cop for alleged jay-walking – which Rall denies that he committed.

It also inspired the cartoonist to ink some pointed jabs at the LAPD. Such as:

Ted Rall LAPD cart 5-11-15

Or this:

Ted Rall LAPD cart 4-20-15

Well, Rall was fired by the LA Times. Here’s how the whole controversy was described:

The controversy began shortly after the Times published a May 2015 column where Rall took the LAPD to task for its latest pedestrian crosswalk crackdown.

In the column, Rall recounted his own 2001 arrest for jaywalking on LA’s Melrose Avenue. Rall wrote that the arresting officer shoved him, cuffed him and tossed his driver’s license into the gutter, as a crowd of protesting onlookers gathered around.

After the column was published, the pressure on the columnist began.

Editors told Rall that the LAPD approached the Times first, claiming that Rall’s allegations about being handcuffed were just plain untrue. As proof, the LAPD furnished the Times with a 14-year-old tape of the incident to prove Rall was lying about the stop, the officer’s poor treatment of him, even the crowd that protested.

The LAPD maintained the officer remained polite and professional throughout the incident. It claimed to the Times that Rall was never mistreated and that nobody rushed to his defense.

But the audio evidence cops furnished the Times was mostly inaudible. Some polite conversation at the beginning and end of the ticketing stop can be heard on that tape, but the rest of it was of exceedingly poor quality. That first tape contained 20 seconds of talk — and fully six minutes of static and unintelligible noise.

Yet editors of the Times agreed with the LAPD based on the mostly inaudible tape. The Times fired Rall on July 26, 2015 and the next day it went public with the news. In a formal note to readers, Times editor Nick Goldberg questioned Rall’s integrity, explained the discrepancies between the cops’ story, the tape and what Rall has published in the paper. And it severed all ties with him.

There’s lots more. See this, this and this.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman August 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I’m surprised this story didn’t get a comment. I tried yesterday, but ran afoul of the math
questions that precedes “Submit.”

Ted Rall was my favorite political cartoonist at the Los Angeles Times — the best since Conrad who, on the death of Richard Nixon, made a drawing of a headstone that was inscribed, “Richard Nixon Lies Here.”

That Rall was cashiered over conflicting stories told by him and the Los Angeles Police Department concerning a 14-YEAR-OLD jaywalking ticket and arrest that he experienced is terrible as a fact and disturbing for all we will never get to know over this “personnel matter.” Especially as the Times has been running a lot of stories about
high-priced jaywalking tickets being inflicted on people in poor sections of town.

I wrote, but got no answer from smooth editor Davan Maharaj, or from tough-guy Steve Lopez who also has been writing about poor people getting expensive fines for pedestrian violations. I guess Lopez was on his train trip down to San Diego to schmooze with our own Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins over (the lack of) affordable housing and her spouse Jennifer LeSar who is in the business.

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avatar rick callejon August 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm

The Atkins/LeSar conflict of interest may be legal, but it certainly isn’t right.

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