Councilmembers Martinez, Cedillo and de León urged to resign after leaked audio of racist remarks
Tensions remained high during the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Tuesday following leaked audio containing racist remarks made last year about a fellow council member and his son.
The meeting was delayed for more than a half hour as protestors packed City Hall, demanding that Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León resign. On Monday, Martinez stepped down as council president and Ron Herrera, who was also on the leaked audio, resigned as president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Mitch O’Farrell has been elevated to interim council president.
BREAKING: shock and appall at LA City Council when members Kevin de Leon and Cedillo attempt to attend the meeting amid a cascade of calls for them to resign after leaked, racist comments. Eventually they leave so meeting begins. Crowd demands resignations today. @SpecNews1SoCal pic.twitter.com/cQhwP3LyT0— Kate Cagle (@KateCagle) October 11, 2022
Ahead of the meeting, Martinez, who is remaining on the 15-member legislative body, announced she’s taking a leave of absence. “This has been one of the most difficult times of my life and I recognize this is entirely of my own making,” Martinez said in a statement. “At this moment, I need to take a leave of absence and take some time to have an honest and heartfelt conversation with my family, my constituents, and community leaders.”
Councilman Mike Bonin, whose Black son was disparaged on the audio, also demanded the resignations during the meeting.
After Bonin finished speaking, the meeting was put to recess until order could be restored.
On Sunday, leaked audio of a conversation from October 2021 between Martinez, Cedillo and de León and Herrera was posted on Reddit. According to the Los Angeles Times, which obtained the audio, the conversation shifts from the city’s redistricting maps to Bonin. Martinez said, “Bonin thinks he’s f****** Black” and then recalled Bonin appearing with his son on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
“He handled his young Black son as though he were an accessory,” Martinez said, adding “parece changuito,” which translates to “like a monkey.” Claiming the son was misbehaving during the parade, Martinez said, “They’re raising him like a little White kid. I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”
Protestors went to Martinez's home on Sunday, demanding her resignation.
RIGHT NOW: 🚨🚨🚨— People’s City Council - Los Angeles (@PplsCityCouncil) October 10, 2022
We are outside city council president Nury Martinez’s house right now. Community members are calling for @CD6Nury’s resignation.
There’s no coming back from this. Nury is DONE. #ResignNury pic.twitter.com/BjOa6dkJYG
“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 said in a statement to CNN. “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. My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”
De León has also issued an apology.
“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,” De León said in a statement provided to NBC4. “On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders -- and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
Our family statement about today's ugly and hateful news. pic.twitter.com/0fPPXwsS5B— Mike Bonin (@mikebonin) October 9, 2022
“We’re appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racist slurs and talked about her desire to physically harm him. It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful,” Bonin and his husband Sean Arian said in a joint statement, which was posted on Twitter.
Bonin and Arian added that they are “equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin de León and Ron Herrera, who should also resign their posts, and by the tacit acceptance of those remarks from Gil Cedillo.”
Cedillo has also issued an apology.
“While I did not engage in the conversation in question, I was present at times during this meeting last year,” Cedillo said in a statement to CNN. “It’s 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.”
“The conversation revealed several layers of contempt for the people of Los Angeles, and a cynical, ugly desire to divide the City rather than serve it,” Bonin and Arian said in their statement.