By Aaricka Washington/LAist
Originally published Oct 9, 2022 6:32 PM
Nury Martinez announced her resignation this morning from her post as Los Angeles City Council President following the release on Sunday of recordings of racist remarks she made in a meeting last October during a conversation between two other Latino councilmembers and the L.A. Labor Federation president.
Here’s her full statement, released shortly after 10 a.m.:
“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry.
I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son. 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. 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. 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. Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as President of the Los Angeles City Council.”
Among the most shocking comments she made during the conversation were directed toward Councilmember Mike Bonin’s adopted 3-year-old son, who is Black. She and others present also made derogatory comments about indigenous Oaxacans.
What Exactly Happened?
Martinez, who is not up for reelection this election cycle, was speaking with fellow Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. They were recorded talking about their frustrations with redistricting efforts in the city — a once-in-a-decade process that has an impact on community members’ everyday lives. How those lines are drawn affects who is elected and what assets those districts will have available. [Note: In California, all parties have to consent to being recorded, which is not the case for this recording.]
Audio of the conversation was posted to Reddit earlier this month by an unknown source, and first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Knock LA published audio clips on their website Sunday morning (our newsroom has also since reviewed the tapes.)
One year later and one month before Angelenos head to the polls to vote in the Nov. 8 election, we’re learning that racist and derisive slurs were used against fellow council members not present throughout this discussion among powerful decision makers who create laws, order elections and approve city contracts.
What Exactly Did They Say?
The group discussed their need to maintain strong Latino representation on the council. About 48% of L.A.’s total population is Latino. Four of the 15 city council members are Latino and three participated in this conversation.
The conversation is a microcosm of a range of historic issues in L.A. politics — who has power and who doesn’t.
When it came to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, Martinez said: “F—- that guy, he’s with the Blacks.”
Martinez also said extremely racist, derogatory things about Bonin’s adopted Black son as she recounted being on an MLK Jr. parade float together.
Shesaid his son acted like a “monkey” [parece changuito] in Spanish and suggested that his son was being raised “like a little white kid” and needed a beatdown. “Let me take him around the corner, I’ll bring him right back,” she says.
Martinez issued an apology hours after the story broke Sunday morning.
“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. 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.”
Why Political Power Is At The Center Of This
Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera also talked about Black political power in Los Angeles in derisive, disrespectful, racist ways when discussing next steps in dealing with Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who’s been indicted on federal bribery charges.
Ultimately, the council voted to suspend Ridley-Thomas. At that moment, the group was talking about possible fallout from whatever happened next.
“If he resigns — hold on — if he resigns, and the African Americans look at this as a hostile takeover because he’s gone, we’ll have to figure this out, because politically they’re going to come after this,” Herrera says.
De León responds by talking about “The Wizard of Oz effect” and what he feels is limited Black political power that seems like it’s powerful, but it’s not.
Herrera says that he feels pretty good about the chances of having power.
Cedillo then comments on the small number of Black residents — who make up about 9% of the city’s population — compared to Latino residents.
In the recording, you can hear Cedillo say “25 Blacks are shouting.”
Calls For Resignations
Bonin and his husband said they were “appalled, angry, and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racial slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him.”
Bonin, who represents westside neighborhoods, had decided earlier this year not to run for reelection. In a video explaining his choice he said he was doing so “to focus on health and wellness” and to spend more time with his young son. In addition to calling on Martinez to resign, Bonin on Sunday called on de León, who is not up for reelection this time around, and Herrera to both resign. Cedillo lost his seat outright in the June primary to Eunisses Hernandez.
De León released a statement Sunday saying:
“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. On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson called the behavior “inexcusable and potentially illegal.”
And Herrera issued an apology saying he had the “deepest regret” for failing to act during the discussion which he called “vile.”
What The LA Mayoral Candidates Said
Statements Of Other Councilmembers
Eunisses Hernandez beat incumbent Gil Cedillo outright in the primary and will take office next term.