LA council member resigns as president over racist remarks in leaked audio

Politics

(KTLA) — Los Angeles City Council’s Nury Martinez resigned from her post as president Monday after leaked audio captured offensive and racist remarks made during a private meeting held last year between three sitting council members and a local union leader.  

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry,” Martinez said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words.”

While Martinez stepped down from her leadership role, she remains a member of the city council.

Audio from the meeting was published Sunday in a report by the Los Angeles Times.  

In the leaked audio, which was summarized by the Times but was originally posted to Reddit and remains readily available on social media, Council President Martinez can be heard making derisive and racist comments about the child of Mike Bonin, the council member representing the 11th District.

Bonin, who is white, has an adopted son who is Black. In the leaked audio, Martinez can be heard describing Bonin’s son as “ese changuito,” or that little monkey, according to the Times. At one point, Martinez also refers to Bonin as a “little b—-.”

The comments were made during a discussion regarding Bonin and his son participating in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade several years ago. Bonin and his son were on a float with other members of the Los Angeles political scene, and Martinez apparently was dissatisfied with the boy’s behavior, saying he nearly tipped the float over. She can also be heard accusing Bonin of raising the child like a “little white kid.”

The meeting, which the Times reports happened last October on Los Angeles County Federation of Labor property, included fellow Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Federation President Ron Herrera.

De León at one point accuses Bonin of treating his son like an accessory, comparing him to a designer handbag. He also referred to Bonin as the council’s “fourth Black member,” the Times reports.

The meeting was part of a broader discussion regarding the city’s redistricting, which happens once every 10 years. Those in attendance were critical of the maps drawn up by the districting commission and voiced their frustration over the process.

Since the release of leaked audio, which was surreptitiously recorded by an unknown person, Councilman Kevin de León and outgoing Councilmember Gil Cedillo are also facing pressure to resign as well. 

On Sunday, Martinez released a statement saying she was concerned about the potential negative impact that redistricting might have on “communities of color.” She added that her past work on the council “speaks for itself.”

De León released a statement of his own, in which he voices his regret for participating and, at times, condoning the remarks.

“There were comments made in the context of this meeting that are wholly inappropriate; and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private. I’ve reached out to that colleague personally,” the statement reads. “On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.” 

In his statement, Herrera apologized for “my failure to stand up to racist and anti-black remarks.”

“There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward,” the statement says.

The Times reached out to Cedillo for a statement on the leaked audio. Cedillo told the Times that he did not remember the meeting.

Bonin released a statement Sunday afternoon in which he says he and his husband were “appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted” by the comments made toward their son.

“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today. No child should ever be subjected to such racist, mean and dehumanizing comments, especially from a public official,” Bonin’s statement reads in part. “It hurts that one of our son’s earliest encounters with overt racism comes from some of the most powerful public officials in Los Angeles.”

Bonin has called on Martinez, de León and Cedillo to resign from the City Council, as did Councilmember Nithya Raman.

In a statement released on Twitter, U.S. Representative and candidate for mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass said in part: 

“Let me be clear about what was on those tapes: appalling, anti-Black racism…All those in the room must be held accountable, and I’ve spent the day speaking with Black and Latino leader about how to ensure this doesn’t divide our city.”  

Developer and candidate for mayor of L.A. Rick Caruso released a statement that read in part: 

“This entire situation shows that city hall is fundamentally broken and dysfunctional…I denounce everything in these recordings and call on all to be held accountable.”  

L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón released a statement that read: 

“I am saddened & disappointed by the racist comments made in the conversation between various L.A. City Councilmembers. I share the outrage of Councilmember Bonin as well as all members of the African American Community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles.”  

Mike Feuer, L.A. City Attorney said in a statement

“I was shocked to read those horrifying comments. There can never be any room for racism, or homophobia, in Los Angeles. We must be better than that.”  

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