L.A. Police Union Bought Newspaper Stock, Used Leverage to Try to Fire Editorial Staffers It Accused of Being Anti-Police
by Ted Rall - CounterPunch
On July 27 the Los Angeles Times fired me as its editorial cartoonist, announcing my dismissal with a humiliating “Editor’s Note” that (falsely) accused me of being a liar and fabulist.
Not everyone was unhappy about my ouster.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) soon published a gloating blog post “applaud[ing] the L.A. Times firing of cartoonist Ted Rall.”
I wasn’t surprised they didn’t like me. Since 2009, I drew more than a dozen cartoons criticizing the LAPD as overly militarized, violently abusive of civilians and inept.
Even so, the police union blog went over the top.
“So many within the LAPD were pleasantly surprised…We especially appreciate the Times’ reaction, as the media in general often seems eager to publish material portraying law enforcement in a negative light,” the LAPPL wrote in a blog (which vanished into 404-dom after The Guardian wrote about it this past Saturday).
The LAPPL statement contained a thinly-veiled threat aimed at other journalists critical of law enforcement:
“We hope other news publications will take note of the Times’ willingness to hear and respond to the other side of the story and look at the facts.”
According to the Los Angeles Times’ Note penned by editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, “the Los Angeles Police Department has provided records about the incident,” including the audiotape (probably spliced) initially used to discredit me.
But the LAPD categorically denied being the source of the tape.
If not the LAPD, who gave the tape to the Times? And if it was someone other than the LAPD, why did Goldberg lie about the source in his Editor’s Note?
One possibility: the LAPPL.
Back in 2001, after I filed an Internal Affairs complaint against LAPD Officer Will Durr for falsely charging me with jaywalking and being rude and unprofessional, Durr no doubt attended a hearing about my complaint. (I wasn’t invited to attend.) As a member of the LAPPL, he would have had the right to bring his union representative to this meeting.
Did the LAPPL union rep snatch a copy of my file — and a dub of the LAPD audiotape? If so, did he add it to a “just in case” stash of purloined LAPD evidence at LAPPL headquarters, where it sat until earlier this year?
If the LAPPL used the audiotape of my jaywalking arrest to get me fired from the Times, this behavior would be consistent with the union’s attitude that their pension fund’s ownership of substantial portions of stock in a newspaper or its parent company buys it the right to get rid of editorial staffers whose work it deems insufficiently supportive of the police.
In 2009, the LAPPL (which then represented firefighters as well as cops) pension fund invested $30 million in Platinum Equity, a private Beverly Hills equity firm that owned the San Diego Union-Tribune. On May 21, 2009, the Los Angeles Times reported: “As League President Paul M. Weber views it, that makes the League part owner in the flagging Tribune and League officials are none to happy with the paper’s consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits.”
“Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced,” Weber wrote in a March 26, 2009 letter to Platinum CEO Tom Gores.
More from the 2009 Times story: “Weber, in an interview, emphasized that the League is not demanding changes in the paper’s news coverage of the issue or in its staff of reporters. ‘It’s just these people on the opinion side. There is not even an attempt to be even-handed. They’re one step away from saying, ‘these public employees are parasites,’’ Weber said.”
Nowadays the $18.4 billion LAPPL pension fund is managed by Oaktree Capital. Oaktree is the single largest stockholder of Tribune Publishing, parent company of the Los Angeles Times.
Does the LAPPL still believe its pension fund “ownership” of newspapers entitles it to change out “these people on the opinion side”?
It would certainly be consistent with my firing at the behest of the LAPD — or perhaps more precisely, the LAPPL.