Friday, November 24 , 2017, 7:12 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

Ted Rall: I’m In Awe of The Liars At The Los Angeles Times

There's a scene in the movie "Idiocracy" during which a character cheers as cops blow a car to smithereens.

"That's your car!" another, less dumb, character points out.

The idiot, a lawyer named Frito, keeps cheering.

I felt kind of like the smarter dumb guy in Los Angeles Superior Court a week ago, when I watched a lawyer for the Los Angeles Times defame me and twist the facts to a level rarely seen outside a White House press briefing. 

She argued before a judge that the Times was right to knowingly lie about me in its pages, that the First Amendment meant the Times was immune from defamation and libel law, and that I should pay the Times for having had the temerity to sue them. 

And, she was successful. It was strangely thrilling to watch a professional at the top of her game. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson: When the lying gets weird, the liars turn pro.

For decades, the Los Angeles Times was one of the best newspapers in the United States.

It was arguably the best full-service paper — like the New York Times, LA had all the foreign bureaus and deep national and local coverage required of a great news organization, along with enjoyable features such as comics, horoscopes and advice columns.

Every newspaper has struggled to adapt to the internet. But the LA Times has had more trouble than most.

If I were in charge, I'd rebrand it. The New York Times is the national paper of news and culture, the Washington Post is the national paper of politics, the Wall Street Journal is the national paper of business, and the Los Angeles Times ought to be the national paper of entertainment — movies, music and gaming.

Instead, the LA Times continues going about things the same way they did in 1997.

Things turned from bad to worse in 2000, when the Tribune Company acquired the Times. Flailing ensued. The Times' idiocy culminated in 2005 with "Wikitorial," a bizarre experiment that allowed readers to add to editorial content.

In 2007, Tribune sold itself only go bankrupt a year later. It was the beginning of the end.

I began working for the Times in 2009.

The Times turned to a Los Angeles financier and billionaire with no journalistic experience, Austin Beutner, naming him as publisher in 2014. 

Like cats and mice, cops and newspapers shouldn't go into business together. In 2015, I was fired for criticizing LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in my cartoons. So, I sued them for defamation and wrongful termination. The Times then fired Beutner.

On June 21, the court heard the Times' first of three anti-SLAPP motions against me. Anti-SLAPP motions are supposed to protect free speech, but in this case the Times is asking the court to dismiss my case and charge me $300,000 in their legal fees.

The Times has been busy in court. They're also fighting a pair of age discrimination lawsuits filed by a sports columnist and a Pulitzer-winning reporter who say the Times tried to save money by harassing them into quitting their jobs.

Nothing is sure in life or in court, but I feel confident that a jury would agree that what the Times did to me was wrong. 

On June 21, the judge was fed nonsense. 

They even brought up race. I was accused, as a white man — of falsely accusing the African-American cop who arrested me for jaywalking in 2001 — of misconduct, because he was black. 

The mind boggles.

As we walked down the escalator, my lawyer remarked that I had never told her the cop was black.

"Because I never mentioned it," I told her. "Because it wasn't important."

I'm in awe.

Ted Rall is the author of Bernie, a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography Trump, comes out July 19 and is now available for pre-order. Click here to contact him, and follow him on Twitter: @TedRall. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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