Veteran American political cartoonist Ted Rall has been fired by the LA Times based on a poor quality, sometimes unintelligable audio tape made by a police officer ticketing the cartoonist for jaywalking in Los Angeles 14 years ago.
At issue are competing narratives of that 2001 jaywalking incident.
In a May 11 blog for the LA Times website, Rall recalled that he was arbitrarily handcuffed and pushed up against a wall by the ticketing officer at the time. The blog posting accompanied a Rall cartoon for the paper targeting current LAPD pedestrian crosswalk policy.
Following Rall’s blog post, a copy of an audiotape made by the officer involved in the 2001 jaywalking bust was made available to Times editorial-page editor Nicholas Goldberg.
In announcing Rall’s termination on July 28, editor Goldberg wrote: “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 . . .”
Prime among the questions raised was whether the cartoonist had been handcuffed, something Rall didn’t mention in a complaint about the incident filed in 2001. Rall explained this by saying that at the time he was “far more concerned and angry about being falsely charged with a misdemeanor that could have created a criminal record.”
Rall has posted both the police recording provided to the LA Times and an enhanced version of that tape by three sound technicians Rall consulted. In the cleaned-up version of the tape, the cartoonist reports, someone can be heard saying “He was just jaywalking . . . you need to take off . . . you need to take off his handcuffs.”
Rall had done hard-hitting cartoons for the LA Times since 2009.
As Rall said in an interview with Sputnick News: “Look, I pissed off cops. I’ve done many anti-LAPD cartoons and essays over the years. The LAPPL [Los Angeles Police Protective League] made clear in their blog that they have long been angered by me, and they are crowing about my dismissal. So, just at a bare minimum, think about how disturbing this is. The LAPD, or the LAPPL, passed illegally — basically stole something out of the evidence room — slipped it to the top editors at the LA Times, one of the biggest and most widely-respected metro-dailies in the United States, in order to get me fired. In order to send a message to other reporters, ‘don’t screw with cops’.”