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Former LAT Columnist: Management Said to ‘Tone Down’ Criticism of Publisher’s Pal Frank McCourt

T.J. Simers says his former paper directed him to go easy on McCourt because he was a personal friend of the Eddy Hartenstein

T.J. Simers, gadfly Los Angeles Times sports columnist from 1990 until this summer, has resurfaced at the Orange County Register — and his first column at his new home takes a doozy of a swipe at his old one.

Deep within Simers’ rambling reintroduction, he says LAT management directed columnists to “tone down” criticism of media punching-bag Frank McCourt, because the embattled former owner of the LA Dodgers is friends with LAT publisher and CEO Eddy Hartenstein.

Also read: NYT’s Howard Beck Exits Paper for Bleacher Report

“I worked at the Times a few days shy of 23 years – much too long as far as Frank McCourt and the editors were concerned,” Simers wrote. “A few years back the Times directed its columnists to tone down criticism of McCourt, the publisher’s pal.”

And it wasn’t just McCourt that LAT brass was protecting, Simers says.

“They asked me to tone down criticism of [L.A. Angels of Anaheim owner Arte] Moreno recently; I guess it didn’t look good with all the advertising the Angels were doing on the Times’ website,” he continued. “I have no idea who influences news coverage in the rest of the paper.”

That allegation — that a newspaper’s opinion and news coverage is influenced by advertiser whims and friends of LAT executives — is huge, if true. It should be noted that Simers didn’t have enough of a problem with those directives to actually quit his job over them.

A spokesperson for LAT told TheWrap that the paper had no comment on his column but “we wish T.J. Simers well at the O.C. Register.”