Journalists Had Better Hope I Win My Case Against the Billionaire-Owned L.A. Times

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I have written extensively about my lawsuit against the LA Times. As I prepare for the next, do-or-die, stage of my case, it’s time to explain why Rall v. Los Angeles Times et al. has broad implications beyond me personally.

Freedom of the press is at stake.

The subtle yet fundamental question here is: who needs freedom of the press? The obvious answer is journalists: reporters and pundits. But journalists’ freedom to report and editorialize is in grave danger from a surprising enemy: their employers.

Once was, reporters like Woodward and Bernstein were on the same side as their employers. In this age of corporate aggregation of newspapers and other media outlets by publicly-traded media corporations and individual billionaires, however, newspapers and other media outlets are often compromised by their quest for profits, as the LA Times’ parent company was when it allowed its stock to be sold to the LAPD pension fund. In this struggle the media companies have framed themselves as guardians of press freedom at the expense of journalists, ironically securing the power to screw journalists in the guise of First Amendment protections.

If the California Supreme Court refuses to hear my case — which is probably what will happen — or hears it and rules for the Times’ anti-SLAPP motion against me, the court will send a chilling message to journalists and pundits across the country. Most Americans, and most reporters, live in states with anti-SLAPP statutes modeled on California’s.

The threat to journalists is unmistakable: rock the boat and you risk being destroyed.

Write an article critical of a powerful institution like the LAPD, the nation’s highly militarized, largest and most brutal police forces, controlling a $16 billion pension fund, and they can pull strings to get you fired. It can also happen in a tiny town like Baker City, Oregon.

Even worse, you can’t find another job because they use falsified “evidence” to smear your reputation for honesty. Even if you can prove that it’s BS — as I did — media companies use their editorial endorsements of jurists and politicians to rig the courts with their allies so you, the victim, get dunned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the villainous media company’s legal fees!

I have advice for journalists thinking about covering police abuse: don’t. The price for doing your job — termination, defamation and bankruptcy — isn’t worth it.

If I could go back to 2015 when the LAPD-owned LA Times trashed my reputation in service to a thin-skinned police chief, I would not draw or write anything about the cops. It’s too dangerous.

I have learned how big media companies have stacked the bench with sympathetic judges, lobbied for laws that protect them from accountability for breaking the law and used their influence to crush individual journalists for such crimes as reporting the news or having worked long enough to earn a high salary. The system doesn’t even pretend to be fair. Many judges are former prosecutors; how can they justify not recusing themselves from cases involving the cops?

Now there is a $330,000 judgment against me for having the gall to defend my reputation in court. Unless the California Supreme Court overrules it, that judgment will be final and will grow bigger. Journalists and pundits aren’t covering my case — they’re afraid, as they ought to be — but they are watching. If the judgment stands, who will be stupid enough to take on the LAPD or similar institution?

As if the chilling effect on journalists wasn’t enough reason to watch my case, the Times is arguing (so far, successfully) that media companies should no longer extend protections against discrimination by gender, age and sexual orientation to their workers. Unless the court overturns the lower court rulings against me, the door will be pushed open for the Times and other California media corporations to fire, say, its African-American or transgender employees without redress in the courts.

Then there’s the damage to defamation law. For hundreds of years it has been possible for a person wrongfully slimed by a news publication to go to court to try to clear their name. Abusive anti-SLAPP motions have made a mockery of libel law to the point that the National Enquirer, represented by the same lawyer as the Times, falsely claimed Richard Simmons had become a transsexual woman and Simmons was ordered to pay $130,000 to the Enquirer!

It should be challenging to sue for libel, not impossible.

“The quote/unquote truth doesn’t matter,” Los Angeles Times/National Enquirer lawyer Kelli Sager said in court. So far, she’s been right. Judges have bent over backwards to believe the Times’ many lies and ignore the plain truth right in front of them. Hopefully a court outside LA will let me get my day in court.

(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

9 thoughts on “Journalists Had Better Hope I Win My Case Against the Billionaire-Owned L.A. Times

  1. “If I could go back to 2015 … I would not draw or write anything about the cops.”

    Damn, man, I hope that’s the beer talking. ‘cuz if it’s for realsies, they won. It doesn’t matter what the supremes say.

    Not that I’ve any room to talk, you’ve taken far bigger risks than I have. Here’s to hoping you’ll take a few more one day – -== ([]

    • It’s for real. If they had told me about their sick relationship with the LAPD at the time I would never have gone after the cops. I liked my job. I didn’t want to lose it. I don’t think my editors knew either. No one told me because I don’t think anyone even knew until it was too late.

      • Glad you saw my post as commiseration rather than criticism, that’s how it was meant. Even though you got burned, you deserve credit bigly for holding their feet to the fire. It could be worse: they could have ignored you.

        But it ain’t over yet – it ain’t over ’til Diana Ross sings (see what I did there …?)

  2. Re: “But journalists’ freedom to report and editorialize is in grave danger from a surprising enemy: their employers.”

    The 1st amendment freedom of “the press” is the freedom from intimidation/limitation by the GOVERNMENT.

    The LA Times is a corporation not government and, unfortunately, any proposed 1st amendment argument against it has to show why journalists can invoke the 1st amendment to protect themselves from the treachery*** of their non-government, corporate employers.

    Further the answer to the question “who needs the freedom of the press” is, presumably, the “we the people” of, by and for whom the constitution, and its enumerated rights, was allegedly intended. Here one can see yet another ramification of the essential fraud and abuse of “democracy” caused the SCOTUS ruling that proclaimed corporations to be people.

    I’d expect a 1st amendment argument would result in a ruling explaining that journalists are mere cogs in presses of the protected owners of said presses. Here maybe Ms Ocasio-Cortez can be persuaded to pontificate^^^ on another true value of socialism by which the LA Times would be owned by its journalists thus affording them the full protection of the elusive 1st amendment.

    I suspect a 1st amendment argument would be/have been more appropriate in a case against the LA Police Dept.

    The LA Times is clearly a miserable fraud in terms of “who needs freedom of the press” but, as I have said on these threads before, and will again, it is not clear if the cosmically fraudulent empire is rotting from the top down or from the bottom (“the presses”) up.
    *** especially in light of the decades of codification of allowed corporate treachery, starting with, but hardly limited to, the destruction of protection of employees from the
    abuses of their employers
    ^^^ when she gets done condescending, “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Dem establishment, to her colleague Rep. Omar (MN) who has the unmitigated temerity and unheard of courage to call the AIPAC control of congress for precisely what it is. If AOC is taken as our new leader, the rot will continue unchecked
    “AOC link”

    • Don’t forget, this is a First Amendment case because it involves censorship by a government agency — the LAPD — using it ownership interest in a corporation by proxy. However, I was talking about freedom of the press, which is not the same thing as First Amendment freedom.

      • Hello Ted,

        So the LAPD is an actual co-defendant in the case … once again, IF the essence of the case is ever heard?

        If you care, please explain how “freedom of the press” is different from “First Amendment freedom.” as

        The text of the 1st amendment follows:
        “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the FREEDOM of speech, or OF THE PRESS; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  3. In the original “Star Trek” series, in one episode (Errand of Mercy, IIRC), Kirk is trying to inspire a very placid population into rising up against the Klingons. After a while, having failed, failed, failed to get these people riled up, he snaps: “I’m used to the idea of dying. I have no desire to die for the likes of you.”
    I understand, Ted. It’s one thing to fight the good fight when–at the very least–your peers stand behind you. But your peers looked up, saw what was happening, and looked right back down again in abject terror.
    And what’s even worse? If they’d all risen up in a group and said (written) something like “Ted, we’ve checked the tape. You got caught lying, you fucking asshole. Now sit down and shut up” at least you’d have some sense tha you were wrong. But they all just sat there and SAID NOTHING. Not a word. You stood there screaming at the top of your lungs, asking them to listen to the “evidence,” and no one would. Truly, a classic kangaroo court.
    Had they actually done their jobs and given the tape a listen and been journalists, the courts wouldn’t have screwed you quite so boldly. They’d have tried like hell to trip you up on a technicality, hoping you’d give up or take a settlement, but eventually you would have won this.
    You’re a few years older than I am, but we should–if the actuary tables are accurate–both live long enough to see a whole lot of people really, really regret that they kept their mouths shut.
    “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

  4. Journalists Had Better Hope I Win My Case Against the Billionaire-Owned L.A. Times

    Which journalists, Ted ? The majority of those working for the corporate media in North America and Europe seem quite happy with their role as lackeys to and mouthpieces for the powerful – or, as Dutch historian Rutger Bregman has famously (or infamously, depending upon one’s point of view) put it, as «millionaire[s] funded by billionaires». These people could care less whether you win your case or not….