Editorial by John Ziegler

Column Submitted to LA Times on Blake Verdict/Mayor's Race Coverage

3/21/2005

Here is the original full text of a column I submitted, as requested by the editor, for the LA Times "Outside the Tent" column, which is a place for outsiders to comment on Times coverage. The editor thought it is was "very well-written" but wanted it to not be so "promotional" towards KFI. I altered it as much as I could, but it quickly became obvious that the editor's objections (which I am still trying to understand/define) would be difficult to overcome. However, a final decision has not yet been made. I will update this page when it is.

Facts vs. Truth

As a radio talk show host on KFI-AM (which, unbeknownst to those who get all of their news from the LA Times, is regularly the most listened to talk station in the nation), I am keenly aware that there is a often a dramatic difference between the 'facts' of a story and the 'truth' of that tale. The L.A. Times is usually an outstanding source of facts, but when it comes to revealing the real truth of the big news events, KFI frequently has the Times as beaten as badly as the Lakers used to drub the Clippers. Two recent local episodes vividly illustrated this phenomenon.

The first came during the recent race to gain a spot in L.A.'s mayoral runoff election. While the Times did an admirable job of covering the facts of the primary (other than completely ignoring the only legitimate Republican in the contest until it was far too late for him to gain any traction), you kept your readers completely ignorant of two extremely interesting and important developments over the final hours of the campaign, both of which were highlighted on talk radio.

Democrat Bob Hertzberg, who had been surging in the final polls, came out at the last moment strongly in favor of drivers licenses for illegal aliens (usually referred to in the Times as 'undocumented workers'). For a candidate who was trying to portray himself as more 'conservative' than the others in an effort to appeal to Valley voters, this was an act of near political suicide (especially to do so in the venue of talk radio).

Realizing his mistake, Hertzberg even canceled a long scheduled Election Day interview with me after he learned that I planned to confront him on the issue (though the campaign's official explanation was that the famously energetic Hertzberg was too tired to speak to thousands of likely voters possibly on their way to the polls). While a strong case could be made that this issue cost Hertzberg the six thousand votes he needed to make the runoff, the Times barely even mentioned the topic.

Also on Election Day, Mayor Jim Hahn, in an act of pure political desperation, asked to appear on the show of my highly-rated colleagues 'John & Ken.' What resulted was extraordinary theater which revealed much about the Mayor and his troubled campaign. After a long and heated confrontation with host John Kobylt, Hahn got extremely emotional and appeared to be in tears as he abruptly ended the ill-advised interview and hung up the phone. No one who heard the show will likely forget it anytime soon and it certainly revealed much about the psychological state of the Mayor. Despite the truly amazing nature of this incident, the Times never wrote even one word about it.

Then came the aftermath of the highly questionable verdict in the Robert Blake murder trial. Among the articles the Times devoted to examining what the jurors thought process (or lack thereof) in acquitting the only person known to have both motive and opportunity to commit the crime, was one regarding Roberto Emerick. Based only on a reading of Saturday's 'Juror Sings the Blake Trial Blues,' a Times reader would have an impression of Emerick that, while factually accurate, would be almost completely in contradiction to the truth that they could have heard by listening to him interviewed on KFI.

The article, which briefly mentions his rocky appearance on my show, portrays Emerick as simply a sincere juror who also just happens to be a musician who created a CD about the trial simply to release the tension of the circumstances by benignly expressing his feelings. While it was mentioned in the article that commentators, including myself, had been very critical of the appearance of attempting to profit from jury service, the writer appears to naively buy into the notion that, since Emerick is not selling his music, there is nothing sinister about what he is doing.

Listeners to my radio interview with Emerick got a totally different perspective on what was really happening. Emerick admitted openly to me that he did not realize until after he created the CD that jurors could not profit from service until 90 days after a verdict and that he knew that, as a mechanic with the LAUSD, this was his lone chance to launch a music career. What is most outrageous about Emerick's music venture is that, while his lyrics (which were obviously written well before the deliberations when jurors are supposed to come to their conclusions) are consistent with almost any verdict, there is no doubt that they work best, and are far more potentially marketable, with a controversial conclusion of not guilty. Clearly this is the kind of conflict of interest which should have resulted in Emerick's removal from the jury.

Perhaps just as important to the context of understanding the real Roberto Emerick was the abject lack of logic and reasoning behind his view on Blake's guilt (a position which changed dramatically when the microphones were turned off during commercials), as well as the palatable sense that listeners got that he just didn't care very much about whether the verdict was correct, at least not in comparison with his desire to self promote.

At the end of the interview, Emerick challenged me to a fight, tore a sign off of the KFI studio door, and then turned and emphatically spat in my direction onto the studio carpet. In short, Emerick is a classless jerk (I am quite sure he erroneously believes the same about me) who does not deserve any of the same benefit of the doubt that he all too gladly provided Blake.

While your readers can certainly make up their own minds as to the significance of such information, don't you think they deserve to at least be exposed to it? Thanks to "Outside of Tent," at least now they have been.

(The full interview and aftermath can be heard by clicking on the audio highlights link on this website)

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