February 7, 2023

INEXCUSEABLE: LA City Council President resigns after recording leaks of racist comments about colleague’s child

INEXCUSEABLE: LA City Council President resigns after recording leaks of racist comments about colleague's child

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UPDATE: Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez additionally announced this morning that she would be taking a “leave of absence” from the Los Angeles City Council — in addition to resigning her position as City Council president — due to the outrage inspired by her racist comments heard on the leaked audio recording detailed in the article below.

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Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez resigned from her position on Monday after disparaging remarks made about a colleague’s young son were leaked on Sunday in audio obtained by The Los Angeles Times.

The revelations are sending shockwaves through City Hall – and prompting calls for her resignation from U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and Democratic LA mayoral hopefuls Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass.

In a statement released this morning, Martinez said she was “truly ashamed” by her remarks.

“I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends,” Martinez said. “Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council.”

Recorded nearly a year ago, Martinez was recorded along with fellow councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, who were also heard on the tape making offensive statements.

During the call, Martinez accuses City Councilman Mike Bonin – who is white, of treating his African American son as an “accessory.” Referring to the then-toddler as “Parece changuito,” or “like a monkey,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

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“During the conversation with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, Martinez described Bonin at one point as a “little bitch,” according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The Times.”

Councilman Cedillo, who was present on the call but denies participating in the racially offensive conversation, gave a half-hearted “apology,” while avoiding taking responsibility for not speaking up and holding his colleagues accountable.

Cedillo said Sunday that “While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year. It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard. The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague’s son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse,” he said in a text to The Times. “I did not make a racist statement and I did not mock my colleagues.”

An apology that might hold more weight, if just two days prior Cedillo hadn’t claimed to have no memory of the conversation taking place.

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“Cedillo, contacted by The Times Saturday night, said, “I don’t have a recollection of this conversation.” – LA Times

As the first Latina president of the City Council, Nury Martinez’s statements regarding Black Angelenos are both disheartening and shocking. The ex-Council President attempted to deflect criticism by blaming her comments on “frustration.”

“In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments. For that I am sorry,” Martinez stated.

“The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color,” she added. “My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”

Yet that doesn’t explain Martinez’s mocking of the Oaxacan community that has settled in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles.

“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said in reference to a particular area of the largely Hispanic Koreatown neighborhood. “I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came (from), how they got here,” Martinez said, adding “Tan feos” – “They’re ugly.”

Aside from being vile, the leaked audio shines a light on a much bigger problem – the increased divisiveness in this country and proves that bigotry and stereotypes come in all shapes, sizes, cultures, demographics, and communities. But one thing that sets Democrats apart from their opponents and colleagues across the aisle is that we hold our own accountable – and will continue to do so.

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Senator Padilla, a longtime ally and friend of Martinez, released a statement on Monday condemning the rhetoric.

“At a time when our nation is grappling with a rise in hate speech and hate crimes, these racist comments have deepened the pain that our communities have endured. Los Angeles deserves better.”

Listen to the audio of the conversation here.

Original reporting by David Zahniser, Julia Wick, Benjamin Oreskes, and Dakota Smith at the Los Angeles Times

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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