la city council president resigns after leaked audio of racist comments scaled

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez resigned on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, after leaked audio revealed her hurling racist remarks at a colleague and his Black child.
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council president resigned from her authority position on Monday after recently leaked audio revealed her hurling racist comments about a colleague and his Black child.

Council President Nury Martinez released a statement saying her resignation is effective immediately — a day after The Los Angeles Times reported on the audio clips the outlet says are from October 2021.

“I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son,” she said, referring to fellow councilmember Mike Bonin and his husband Sean Arian.

“As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.”

“As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal,” Martinez continued. “Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal.”

Martinez’s statement says the resignation impacts her role as the legislative body’s president. She will still reportedly remain on the council.

The audio reportedly involved Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The councilmembers were expressing irritation about the maps proposed by the city’s redistricting commission. According to the LA Times, they wanted to “ensure that heavily Latino districts did not lose economic assets.”

It was during that conversation the officials brought up Bonin. In audio clips posted by the LA Times, Martinez can be heard saying that her fellow councilmember, a white man, is a “little bitch” and “thinks he’s fucking Black.”

In the recording, Martinez says that Bonin brought his son, who is Black, on a float during the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. parade — saying he “handled” his son like an “accessory.” De León responded by comparing Bonin’s handling of his son to Martinez holding a luxury handbag.

The council president also complained about Bonin’s son’s behavior on the float, saying the councilmember is raising his child “like a little white kid.”

Martinez then compared Bonin’s son to a monkey in Spanish and added, “I was like, this kid needs a beat down, like let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”

In another recording, Martinez and Cedillo are heard talking about Oaxacan and Indigenous people in Los Angeles being “little short dark people,” a racist stereotype targeting people from southern Mexico.

“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,” the council president said before calling them “feos,” or “ugly.”

De León called the comments “wholly inappropriate” and told the Times he fell short “of the expectations we set for our leaders.”

Cedillo told CNN that he should have intervened in the “simply unacceptable” remarks about Bonin’s son and failed at “holding others and myself to the highest standard.”

Herrera released a statement apologizing to Bonin’s family, his own family, his staff and the Black and Oaxacan communities — adding that the calls for accountability are “loud, clear, and deserved.”

Before Martinez’s announcement on Monday, at least four of her colleagues on the council had demanded she resign — Nithya Raman, Paul Koretz, Joe Buscaino and Bonin himself. Protesters stood outside Martinez’s home on Sunday night demanding her resignation and playing the leaked audio on a loudspeaker, according to Knock LA.

Bonin released a statement slamming Martinez for her comments. He added that he is “equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments” by de León and Herrera, and by “the tacit acceptance of those remarks” from Cedillo. He also called on the City Council to remove Martinez as president and demanded she, de León and Herrera resign from office.

“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. It is painful to know he will someday read these comments,” Bonin said.

“As parents of a Black child, we condemn the entirety of the recorded conversation, which displayed a repeated and vulgar anti-Black sentiment, and a coordinated effort to weaken Black political representation in Los Angeles,” he continued. “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’s husband separately responded to the incident.

“The first thing I learned as a political spouse is not to respond,” Arian tweeted. “But I cannot stay silent when someone attacks my beautiful child. And none of us should be silent in the face of such disgusting anti-Black racism.”

The audio leaked about a month before the city’s Nov. 8 election in which the mayor and multiple council seats are up for grabs. Martinez endorsed several candidates in the election, including Democratic contender Karen Bass for mayor.

Bass, who is Black, condemned the city officials’ behavior but stopped short of demanding their resignations.

“Let me be clear about what was on those tapes: appalling, anti-Black racism,” the former congresswoman said in a statement. “I have devoted my life to bringing people together to move us forward. For more than 30 years, I have built alliances between Los Angeles’ Black and Latino communities to increase our neighborhoods’ health, safety and prosperity.”

“I firmly believe that we can overcome our shared challenges by uniting around our shared values, and in a diverse and dynamic city like Los Angeles, that’s our only path forward.”

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