August 15, 2015
The headline is meant to be tongue and cheek, but what happened in this story is serious.
My friend and colleague Ted Rall was fired from his freelance gig of six years by the Los Angeles Times. This is particularly disturbing because of the circumstances surrounding the decision. The LAPD, who Rall had been criticizing in his cartoons, was involved in the decision to can Rall. The firing came after the LAPD provided an audio tape that allegedly disputes Rall’s claim that he was handcuffed in 2001 for jaywalking in LA. The tape is mostly unintelligible. I don’t think it should even have been considered by the LA Times. In my opinion, the LA Times should have stood up for Rall, their contributor, instead of the police. At the very least, the LA Times should have asked Ted about the incident in more detail or given the tape to an audio expert to determine if it was authentic or if more could be gleaned. It appears they did neither.
I am a realist. If Ted Rall lied about what happened then, yes, he deserved to be fired just like Brian Williams deserved to lose his anchor job at NBC. But I have seen no proof that he lied. To me the tape is inconclusive, though both the LAPD and Rall say it proves their point. You can judge for yourselves. I have known Ted Rall for a quarter century and I have never doubted his courage or his integrity. I believe him when he says he was handcuffed. But it really isn’t about what I believe. It is about the LA Times believing the LAPD’s version of the story over Ted’s without so much as a call or an investigation into the charges.
Newspapers are fading and cartoonist jobs, even freelance jobs, are going away with them. That is why this story is important. It speaks to the integrity of journalism, satire and the word of a major newspaper. If Rall had been cut for budgetary reasons the cartooning community would have mourned the loss of another paying gig and moved on. That isn’t what happened here. Ted’s cartoons hit a nerve and the LAPD hit back and Ted paid the price.
Any cartoonist worth his or her salt has garnered criticism from the local police for their cartoons. That is part of our job description. It shouldn’t be cause for firing.
For more details or to hear the audiotape go to Ted’s blog: