LA City Council

LA Council Members Apologize for Comments in Recording That Included Racist Slurs

Council members Nury Martinez and Kevin de León issued apologies Sunday for an attack on Mike Bonin during a conversation in 2021 which included racist slurs.

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Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Kevin de León apologized Sunday for an attack on colleague Mike Bonin during a recorded conversation in October 2021 that included racist slurs by Martinez directed at Bonin's young son. On Monday, Martinez resigned from her council leadership post.

It was not immediately clear who recorded audio of the conversation, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, about council redistricting that involved three members of the council and a county labor official. The audio -- it appeared on Reddit, but was later removed from the site -- also includes discussion of efforts to replace Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who's been indicted on federal corruption charges.

"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 sent to NBC4. "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 also issued an apology Sunday.

"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.''

The remarks were made during a talk with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Among other comments, Martinez belittled Bonin, who is white and has a Black son, and criticized the child for his behavior at a Martin Luther King Day parade, saying Bonin's son was misbehaving on a float, which might
have tipped over if she and the other women on the float didn't step in to "parent this kid".

"They're raising him like a little white kid,'' Martinez said. "I was like, 'this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I'll bring him back.'"

Outrage outside the home of LA city president Nury Martinez comes after leaked recordings. Darsha Philips reports for the NBC4 News on Oct. 9, 2022.

Martinez also called the child "ese changuito,'' Spanish for "that little monkey."

In a statement Sunday, Bonin called on the council to immediately remove Martinez from the council president's seat and demanded she resign from the council

“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked out son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him,” Bonin said in a statement. “It’s vile, abhorrent, and utterly disgraceful. The City Council needs to remove her as Council President immediately, and she needs to resign from office. Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office.”

De León also criticized Bonin. "Mike Bonin won't (f---ing ever say peep about Latinos. He'll never say a f---ing word about us."

De León also compared Bonin's handling of his son at the MLK Parade to "when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag."

"Su negrito, like on the side,'' Martinez added, using a Spanish term for a Black person that's considered demeaning by many.

Bonin told The Times he was at 2017's MLK parade with his young son.

"There's more I will say later, but right now because I'm still digesting it. I'm disgusted and angry and heartsick. It's fair game to attack me but my son? You have to be pretty petty and insecure and venomous to attack a child. He wasn't even 3 years old. Other than that, I'm speechless.''

At another point, Martinez recalled a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about possibly transferring Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin's council district and into that of Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. The council president said she told Bakewell to "go get the airport from his little brother -- that little bitch Bonin."

Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George Gascón inprofane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether Gascón would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Eunessis Hernandez.

"F--- that guy. (inaudible)...He's with the Blacks,'' she said of Gascón.

Gascón issued a statement Sunday afternoon.

"I am saddened and disappointed by the racist comments made in the conversation between various LA City Councilmembers," Gascón said. "I share the outrage of Councilmember Bonin as well as all members of the African American community. Anti-Blackness has no place in Los Angeles."

Mayor Eric Garcetti he was saddened by the comments.

"The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place," said Mayor Garcetti. "As Mayor, as a father, and as an Angeleno, I am saddened by what I read. There is no place in our city family for attacks on colleagues and their loved ones, and there is no place for racism anywhere in LA. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values."

Herrera has not commented on the story, but a lawyer representing the LA County Federation of Labor sent a letter to The Times alleging that the conversation was recorded in violation of California's privacy and recording laws.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, is demanding that the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly censure Martinez and de León.

"Their apology for using terms such as 'little monkey' to describe an African-American youth for instance promotes and reinforces the vilest stereotypes of African-Americans (and) is not enough,'' Hutchinson said in a statement Sunday provided to City News Service. "Nothing less than a full censureship by the city council and endorsed by Garcetti will send the message that vile racist stereotypes will not be tolerated and will be quickly punished.''

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