Los Angeles council president steps down after audio leak of racist comments

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A Los Angeles city councilwoman resigned as president of the council on Monday after the release of an audio recording in which she makes racist and other disparaging comments, including remarks about the Black son of a colleague.

Nury Martinez, a Democrat, apologised to fellow Democratic Councilman Mike Bonin and his family in a statement announcing that her resignation would be effective immediately. She continues to represent Los Angeles’ sixth district.

Martinez came under fire after the Los Angeles Times reported comments she made during a recorded October 2021 meeting, in which she said Bonin, who is white, treated his Black son as if he were an “accessory” and compared him to a “changuito,” which translates as “little monkey.” Bonin was not present.

Martinez also disparaged Mexicans from Oaxaca and voiced her displeasure with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, saying “he’s with the Blacks,” the Times reported.

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry,” Martinez said in the statement. “As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal.”

Two other Democratic members of the council – Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León – and labor leader Ron Herrera, who resigned on  Monday night, were present during the conversation, according to the Times.

It reported that De León accused Bonin of not supporting Latinos and likened him to being the council’s “fourth Black member.”

The three issued statements acknowledging that inappropriate remarks were made at the meeting, according to the Times.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor did not respond to a request for comment on Herrera’s resignation.

Bonin issued a statement on Sunday calling for the city council to remove Martinez as president and for her to resign from the legislative body.

“Any parent reading her comments will know she is unfit for public office,” Bonin said.

The local chapter of activist group Black Lives Matter said Martinez, Cedillo, de León and Herrera should resign from their posts.

Martinez was the first Latina to become president of the city’s council in January 2020, according to her office website. She was first elected to city council in 2013.