Bradley Scolds Media for Making Him Look Responsible for Riots
In a frank and angry statement, Mayor Tom Bradley on Saturday lashed out at the news media, particularly ABC “Nightline” host Ted Koppel, for reports that Bradley said made him appear responsible for the riots because of comments and actions he took after the verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.
“For Ted Koppel to make those kind of statements was wrong and I’m not going to allow it,” Bradley told a group of about 75 clergymen, community leaders and residents at a meeting of his San Fernando Valley African-American Leadership Forum in Pacoima.
Bradley also accused the Los Angeles Times of editing his comments and distorting interviews in which he defended his handling of the civil unrest that erupted after the not guilty verdicts in the police beating of King.
“We have to stand up and challenge the kind of inaccuracies put out by the media,” Bradley said to applause. “We cannot condone it.”
In a lengthy, apparently unscripted address, Bradley also referred to Police Chief Daryl F. Gates as “arrogant,” although he did not mention Gates by name.
Bradley said that under city laws, “the police chief can’t be hired, can’t be disciplined or be fired by the mayor. That’s why this man can act in such an arrogant manner, why he can do what he wants, why the Police Commission can give him instructions and he can refuse to follow them.”
Bradley also strongly urged audience members to support a City Charter amendment that would expand the authority of City Hall over the police chief, limit the chief’s term of office and strengthen police disciplinary procedures.
“If anyone here votes no on Charter Amendment F, or fails to vote yes, then you don’t deserve to be a leader in the community,” he said.
One of the main purposes of the meeting was to allow Bradley to present certificates of heroism to community leaders who he said were instrumental in largely stopping the unrest from spreading to the Valley and Pacoima.
But the presentation was largely overshadowed by his scolding of the news media.
The mayor said he was outraged by a prime-time special hosted by Koppel on Thursday that suggested that the riots got out of control in part because the Police Department had not developed a contingency plan, and in part because Gates and Bradley were not working together and had not spoken in more than a year.
He said Koppel also repeated the criticism that Bradley’s television address after the verdicts helped incite the riot.
Two hours after the verdicts were announced April 29, Bradley went on television to blast the Simi Valley jury that, he said, “asked us to accept the senseless and brutal beating of a helpless man.”
He added: “The jury’s verdict will never outlive the images of the savage beating seared forever into our minds and souls. . . . I understand full well that we must give voice to our great frustration. I know we must express our profound outrage. But we must do so in ways that bring honor to ourselves and our communities.”
After criticizing the jury at length, Bradley tempered his remarks with pleas for listeners not to engage in “senseless acts born of anger.”
After the Koppel program, Bradley said he was “so enraged that I could hardly sleep that night. But I made it through, and I put together an angry letter and sent it to him.”
He said he told Koppel that he had always had great respect for him, “but that I didn’t think I could ever have that kind of confidence in him again.”
Bradley said he was interviewed for 45 minutes by ABC, but that only a few 30-second clips were used in the program.
Koppel and ABC News officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.
In his remarks about The Times, the mayor said several comments were deleted and edited from a recent interview in which he defended his post-verdict actions.
“The paper’s own record shows that the violence had started long before I started speaking on television,” he said.
He also criticized the paper for deleting a sentence from a recent Letter to the Editor by former Police Commissioner Melanie Lomax that said the riots had broken out before Bradley addressed the television audience.
Bradley repeated his claims that he had started preparing for a possible violent outbreak three weeks before the verdict, staging meetings with police officials and community leaders.
He called the accusations that he helped start the riot “outrageous and absurd.”
Bradley added that “you’ve got some angry, hostile young men out there. That’s what you have to deal with. . . . I don’t condone what they did. It was wrong. But I’m not going to let anyone say the mayors of the cities allowed this to occur.”
The audience seemed to react favorably to Bradley’s speech and gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion.
“I think a lot of things are happening fast now because of Tom Bradley’s leadership,” said Pastor James Lyles of the First United Methodist Church of Pacoima. “I’m pleased he’s speaking out like he is.”