Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez is facing calls to resign Sunday over racist slurs she directed at colleague Mike Bonin’s young son during a conversation in October 2021.
Martinez and Councilman Kevin de LeÃ³n made racially charged remarks during a talk with Councilman Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, in a conversation that focused on the politically sensitive process of redrawing council district boundaries.
The conversation was leaked, appearing on Reddit before it was later removed from the site. CNS reviewed the conversation, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
It was not clear who was responsible for the recording or the leak.
Martinez and de LeÃ³n both apologized Sunday for their remarks.
“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 provided to City News Service.
“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 LeÃ³n said: “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,” he said.
“On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
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.”’
Martinez also called the child “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.”
De LeÃ³n also criticized Bonin. “Mike Bonin won’t (f—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing word about us,” he said.
De LeÃ³n 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 and his partner Sean Arian tweeted a lengthy statement from the family Sunday calling for the council to remove Martinez as president and for her and de LeÃ³n to resign their seats entirely.
“We are appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted that Nury Martinez attacked our son with horrific racist slurs, and talked about her desire to physically harm him. 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.
“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today,” the statement continued. “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. We are equally angry and disgusted by the ugly racist comments about our son from Kevin de Leon and Ron Herrera, who should also resign their posts, and by the tacit acceptance of those remarks from Gil Cedillo. It hurts that one of our son’s earliest encounters with overt racism comes from some of the most powerful public officials in Los Angeles.
“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. 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 had earlier 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.”
Incoming Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who defeated Cedillo in June, also called for Martinez to step down.
“Council President Nury Martinez needs to resign, Councilmembers Kevin De Leon and Gil Cedillo should be removed from committees,” Hernandez tweeted.
“This is the reason why Angelenos voted out CM Gil Cedillo,” she wrote. “We cannot have people in leadership who hold racist views, and employ them to negatively impact the lives of Angelenos.”
Cedillo did not respond to a request for comment from CNS, but he told The Times that he did not have a recollection of the conversation.
At another point in the leaked conversation, Martinez recalls 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 says she told Bakewell to “go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin.”
On the subject of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ suspension amid an indictment on federal corruption charges, Martinez said Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether Ridley-Thomas still gets paid.
“You need to go talk to that white guy,” she says. “It’s not us. It’s the white members on this council that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”
Martinez also took aim at Los Angeles County District George GascÃ³n in profane terms, after the group appeared to discuss whether GascÃ³n would endorse Cedillo in his re-election campaign against Hernandez.
“F— that guy. (inaudible) … He’s with the Blacks,” she said of GascÃ³n.
A spokesperson for GascÃ³n did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Herrera has not commented on the story, but a lawyer representing the L.A. 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.
Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in with a statement Sunday afternoon.
“The Los Angeles I love is a welcoming and nurturing place. 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 L.A. Everyone in our city deserves to feel safe and treated with equal respect. These words fall short of those values,” Garcetti said.
Developer Rick Caruso, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, tweeted a statement in support of Bonin.
“I’ve disagreed with Mike on much regarding public policy, but as a father I stand with him and his family and vehemently denounce this hate speech against his son,” Caruso wrote.
“This entire situation shows that city hall is fundamentally broken and dysfunctional. In a closed door meeting, leaders at the highest levels of city government used racial slurs and hate speech while discussing how to carve up the city to retain their own power,” he continued. “This is a clear example of hypocrisy, racism and crude power politics.
“Everyone involved in this should be held accountable.”
Caruso also said that “most of the people involved in this ugly episode have endorsed Karen Bass,” his opponent in next month’s mayoral election, and called for the Democratic congresswoman to demand accountability from them and renounce their endorsements.
Bass had not commented on the controversy as of Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, 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 LeÃ³n.
“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 CNS. “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.”
A short time after Hutchinson’s statement, Najee Ali, founder of Project Islamic Hope, said Martinez should step down as council president, although he stopped short of calling for her resignation from the council.
“She was voted in along with de LeÃ³n, by the district residents. We’re not speaking for their council constituents. But she is the council president, and we can’t have that type of racist language being espoused by the council president.”
The civil rights activist said what made it even worse was that he’s counted Martinez and de LeÃ³n as “friends and allies” over the years.
“The apology was needed, but it’s not nearly enough for the injury that was inflicted upon the entire city,” Ali said. “And what made it that much more damaging is that we considered them progressives. But it sounded like they were talking at a Trump rally.”
Ali was planning a news conference on Monday backed by other community leaders.
“Everyone is outraged throughout the city,” he said.