LA City Council Member Resigns Leadership Post After Leaked Audio Of Racist Comments

Council President Nury Martinez and three other officials were caught on voice recordings hurling racist remarks about a colleague and his Black child.
Nury Martinez stepped down as president of the Los Angeles City Council on Monday after leaked audio revealed her making racist remarks about a colleague and his child. She retained her seat on the council, though.
Nury Martinez stepped down as president of the Los Angeles City Council on Monday after leaked audio revealed her making racist remarks about a colleague and his child. She retained her seat on the council, though.
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The president of the Los Angeles City Council resigned from her leadership post on Monday after recently leaked audio revealed her hurling racist comments about a council 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 newspaper says were recorded in October 2021. Knock LA posted the full hour-plus audio for the public.

“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 council member 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 affects her role as the governmental body’s president. She will still reportedly remain on the council.

The audio reportedly involved Martinez, and City Council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The council members 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 and Knock LA, Martinez can be heard saying that her fellow council member, 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. Day parade — saying he “handled” his son like an “accessory.” De León responded by comparing Bonin’s handling of his son to Martinez carrying a luxury handbag.

The council president also complained about Bonin’s son’s behavior on the float, saying the council member 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 Mexicans in Los Angeles being “little short dark people,” a racist stereotype about 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 on Sunday called the comments “wholly inappropriate” and told the Times he fell short “of the expectations we set for our leaders.”

Cedillo told CNN on Sunday 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 Sunday 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.

On Monday, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined the growing calls for Martinez, de León and Cedillo to fully resign from the council. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti followed suit Monday afternoon, hours after Martinez stepped down from her role as council president.

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 that 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, originally condemned the city officials’ behavior but stopped short of demanding their resignations. A day later, she released a new statement saying Los Angeles cannot “move in a new direction” unless “the four individuals caught on that tape resign from their offices immediately.”

“This weekend, from some of LA’s most powerful leaders, we heard racism and bigotry against Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, Armenian and other Angelenos, as well as slurs against a child. We also heard them stoking the divide between our city’s Black and Latino communities,” Bass said in her newer statement.

“To move forward as a city, we must move past the politics of divide-and-conquer. There is no place for division and hate in Los Angeles,” she added. “The challenges we face in our city affect us all — and we must unite around our shared values if we are to overcome them and achieve the common dreams we all have for our families.”

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