LOS ANGELES — He’s been one of the most outspoken critics of the Los Angeles Police Department during his time as an editorial cartoonist and columnist at the Los Angeles Times, but now his career is in jeopardy due to controversial audio evidence provided by police.
Since 2009, Ted Rall has been a columnist and editorial cartoonist for the Times, but his career as a respected artist and author goes back decades. In a May 11 column, Rall referred to an incident he says took place shortly after 9/11, as he walked through West Hollywood in Los Angeles after appearing on “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher.” According to Rall, LAPD Officer Will Durr detained Rall for jaywalking, roughly pushing him against a wall and handcuffing him as onlookers cried out in protest. The column in question compared this incident to a recent, similar police crackdown on jaywalkers.
On June 27, the Times fired Rall, claiming he had fabricated the incident. Although the LAPD does not dispute that Rall was ticketed for jaywalking, the department provided the Times with an audio recording which it claims proves that other details of the incident were exaggerated or invented, including the angry witnesses. An editor’s note on the blog post reads, in part:
“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.”
However, the LAPD’s recording was of poor quality, and muffled in places. Greg Palast, a well-known investigative journalist who employs Rall, asked for a copy of the tape to give to audio experts. The experts enhanced the recording, revealing hidden and crucial details:
“Oh, mama! To my surprise – and Rall’s glee – the crowd that he had allegedly fantasized about suddenly came alive – with three women shouting, ‘Why’d you handcuff him?’ and ‘Take off his handcuffs!’ – the handcuffs that were supposedly fabricated by Rall. (One woman helpfully suggested to the officer, ‘Don’t forget to ride his —hole!’)
Palast now claims the LAPD is trying to “gun down” the career of a respected cartoonist in order to silence consent, and he accuses the Times of being “complicit” in this plot:
“As an investigative reporter, I was astonished that the LA Times did not even bother to do an independent analysis of the tape. Rall told me that a Times reporter, Paul Pringle, told him the Times simply accepted the recording transcript as truthful because it came from the LAPD.
And the LAPD hates hates hates Rall.”
According to Rall, neither the LAPD nor the Times will answer his questions, despite the new evidence that backs up his side of the story:
“The Times so far refuses to answer questions from reporters about this, so I have not been able to determine how exactly they came by the tape or where that source obtained it, to discover more about its origins.
… We are still waiting for responses to repeated requests for comment from the LAPD and the Los Angeles Times.
The Times’ Editor’s Note, which explains Rall’s firing as a result of the original mostly-inaudible audio, is still posted online on the LA Times website.”