LA City Council Members Call on Candidate to Withdraw From Race - NBC Southern California

LA City Council Members Call on Candidate to Withdraw From Race

The candidate apologized for the comments on his campaign's Facebook page and vowed to stay in the race

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    LA City Council Members Call on Candidate to Withdraw From Race
    Joe Bray-Ali via KPCC
    File photo: Joe Bray-Ali

    Seven Los Angeles City Council members on Thursday called on candidate Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw from his race against Councilman Gil Cedillo one day after derogatory comments he posted online came to light.

    Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and the Los Angeles Times pulled their endorsements and leaders of the LGBT community also called on Bray-Ali to withdraw.

    "All of the comments by Bray-Ali are patently offensive and have no place in our politics," Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said in his call to Bray-Ali to withdraw. "I found the insults about black women particularly infuriating."

    There was no immediate response to an email set Thursday night to the Bray-Ali campaign seeking a response.

    The other council members calling for Bray-Ali's withdrawal were Councilmen Mike Bonin, Joe Buscaino, Mitchell Englander, Paul Krekorian, Council President Herb Wesson and Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

    City Controller Ron Galperin also denounced Bray-Ali's online comments,which included using an epithetic to describe black people and stating that undergoing gender-reassignment surgery "doesn't seem like something worthy of praise, but instead of being criticized as a shameful excess."

    Although Bray-Ali has apologized for the comments, Galperin held a news conference with LBGT leaders at the Placita Olvera Kiosk several blocks from City Hall, where he called on the challenger to drop out of the race.

    "An apology does not erase the actions," Galperin said.

    Galperin was joined by Richard Zaldivar, president and CEO of The Wall Las Memorias Project, Richard Corral, board member of Honor Pac, and Justine Gonzalez of the city's Transgender Advisory Council.

    Equality California, a statewide LGBT civil rights group, and the Courage Campaign, a progressive organization, also denounced Bray-Ali and called for him to withdraw from the race.

    Cedillo was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali's 37.97 percent.

    Bray-Ali's online comments, which were made a little over a year ago,came to light Wednesday and were first reported by LAist.

    The candidate apologized for the comments on his campaign's Facebook page Wednesday and vowed to stay in the race.

    Bray-Ali said he made the comments because he wanted to engage "bigots and hate-mongers" to understand them better and "ended up sounding like a bigot myself. And I'm not proud of it."

    Bray-Ali also said that "for those of you criticizing, make sure that you scrub your public profiles too. You don't know what's out there."

    Bray-Ali insisted Thursday that he will stay in the race.

    "I, for one, am fully accountable for my past actions and rather than be an apologist or try and deny, I take ownership of the past and the lessons learned. I believe I am a better person for it," Bray-Ali said.

    "I'm not perfect. Certainly my opponent is not. We wouldn't be here in a runoff if our constituents felt served and quite honestly I would not have been inspired to run. I want to focus on serving the most vulnerable in our district."

    The Los Angeles Times editorial board said the revelations "are so deeply disturbing -raising serious questions about both his judgment and his character-that The Times has re-evaluated its original position. For the first time in recent memory, the editorial board is officially rescinding its endorsement."

    The Times board had given a significant boost to Bray-Ali's campaign when it endorsed him over Cedillo, because Bray-Ali has never held elected office. Cedillo served in the Legislature before being elected to the City Council in 2013.

    However, The Times board said it found Bray-Ali's explanations for his comments to be hollow.

    "He has said he went to the site to 'track' bigots and hatemongers out of 'morbid fascination and that he sought to pick fights with them. But there is no indication he was 'tracking' anyone, and picking fights is exactly whathe didn't do," The Times board wrote.

    "He participated in the conversations without once criticizing the headlines, the participants or the subject matter, without once noting that such talk was unacceptable or offensive."

    O'Farrell, who had endorsed Bray-Ali but pulled his support Thursday,said he was "deeply disappointed by his highly insensitive comments in online forums that breed hate and dehumanize already marginalized communities."

    "People that I love and care about are hurt by these comments," he said.

    "There is no place for this type of speech anywhere, especially in the City of Angels, and I am concerned he has compromised his ability to be an effective leader. Therefore, I can no longer support Joe Bray-Ali for Los Angeles City Council."

    The Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, the nonprofit civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, joined the call for Bray-Ali to drop out of the race.

    "His transphobic, fat-shaming comments while participating on a racist website demonstrates he doesn't have the moral character or leadership to serve as an elected official," said Najee Ali, political director of NAN, and Pastor K.W. Tulloss, CEO of NAN, in a joint statement issued Wednesday.

    Cedillo also denounced the remarks.

    "The comments made by Joe Bray-Ali on Voat are disgraceful and have no place in the public square," Cedillo said Wednesday.

    "His assault on people from all walks of life clearly demonstrates that he is not fit for public office, and particularly unsuited to represent a district as diverse as Los Angeles' 1st. This pattern of behavior is not acceptable in the Los Angeles City Council. I vehemently denounce his comments."

    Bray-Ali's comments included disparaging remarks about overweight people. In a forum called "v/FATPEOPLEHATE," he said about an overweight woman accused of aiding in the sexual abuse of her daughter, "If they keep her on her diet, that won't be a long lifetime."

    In one of the forums, which uses an epithet about blacks as its title, Bray-Ali commented on some videos of black people fighting with derogatory headlines like "Elementary Zoo Fight" and "Sheboons fighting at a gas station."

    Other commenters used the epithet and other derogatory and racist language repeatedly, and Bray-Ali did not denounce the language in his own posts. One person wrote in a post, "I like it when they die. Black lives don't matter. Good for entertainment though."

    Bray-Ali also used the epithet himself when he said dark-skinned people in a particular image were not Africans, which should disqualify them from being called the epithet.

    Bray-Ali made another comment talking about how girls with a weave have an advantage in fighting over girls with long hair.

    "At a time when voices of intolerance are given a bullhorn in the nation's capital, it is essential that we speak up against such voices in our own neighborhoods," Bonin said.

    "I join with people of good will, and especially my sisters and brothers in the transgender community, to denounce the intolerant, insensitive and unacceptable comments made by Mr. Bray-Ali. Los Angeles is a city that values inclusion and acceptance, and refuses to allow anyone to be marginalized, dehumanized or discriminated against. Not here. Not now. Not ever."

    City News Service reported last week on a 9-year-old YouTube video in which Bray-Ali spoke into the camera and asked why Mexicans in his neighborhood always honk their horns instead of using a doorbell.

    Bray-Ali first apologized for the video to City News Service, but later told the Los Angeles Times the video was intended to be a question for a humorous OC Weekly column, "Ask a Mexican."

    CD1 includes Highland Park, Westlake, Pico Union, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown, Glassell Park, Echo Park and Mount Washington.

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