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Pictured: Protesters hold signs that call for the resignation of Nury Martínez, Gil Cedillo, and Kevin De León. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
The contents of a leaked, closed-door meeting had ripple effects in the nation. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Kevin De León told Spanish-language media he will not resign despite uproar

In an exclusive interview with Univisión, the Los Angeles councilmember said he will not resign despite calls to do so from several levels of government.

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Los Angeles residents got a glimpse of city councilmember Kevin De León this week following a media appearance on Univisión, a Hispanic news organization, where he acquiesced to an interview in Spanish amid widespread calls for his resignation. 

After Nury Martínez and union leader Ron Herrera stepped down from their posts, L.A. city council unsuccessfully attempted to conduct city business last week unsuccessfully, as protesters filled city chambers in protest. De León and Gil Cedillo were both present at the interrupted meeting and did not offer clarity on whether or not they would resign, while keeping a low profile and no public appearances. 

That changed for De León in the Univisión appearance, where a seemingly defeated though unswayed councilmember spoke of his regret. 

“I felt horrible, but I failed,” he told the journalist conducting the interview, in Spanish. 

“I failed when I didn’t raise my voice and didn’t stop her in her tracks,” De León continued, and explained he was unable to interject due to being in a state of “shock,” according to the councilmember’s remarks. 

De León was part of a closed-door meeting where racist comments were raised at numerous diverse communities, including a colleague’s Black infant child. Albeit De León — who that night participated in the exchanges with disgraced former Council President Nury Martínez — did not raise the commentary, his silence rang through the hour-long conversation.

The comments sparked outrage from L.A.’s constituency, but calls for resignations became the subject of national attention when the contents of the council meeting on redistricting spread through social media and national news outlets. 

Despite mounting calls for his resignation, De León told Univisión he does not plan to resign due to “the load of work to be done,” he told the interviewer when questioned directly on the status of his position, of which he derives a $229,000 salary. 

Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose son was the direct recipient of the remarks leveled at his family, said of De León that: “He describes cruel, dehumanizing remarks about a child as ‘flippant.’ He says he should have ‘intervened,’ as if he were a mere bystander to a racist conversation in which he played a central and ignominious role.”

Paul Krekorian, who rose to the role of council president following Martínez’s resignation, also responded to De León’s thought’s throughout his interview. 

“I believe Mr. De León has it in him to be a better person than we heard on that tape, but apologizing is not the same as making amends,” Krekorian said in a statement to the L.A. Times. “We need to show the world that there is no seat for racism, exclusion and disrespect on the Los Angeles City Council.”

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Calls for the removal of all individuals involved in the conversation were not isolated to the L.A. community. In Capitol Hill, Karine Jean-Pierre, the Biden administration’s Press Secretary, told a reporter the president urged their resignation, in response to an inquiry. 

“The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but he believes they all should resign,” Jean-Pierre said. “The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable and is appalling. He believes they should all step down,” she added. 

De León’s appeal to the Spanish-language media comes after a period of ostensibly silent reflection, where he hoped to acknowledge his participation as regretful and unfortunate, though it remains unclear if the council member plans to address the Black constituency directly. 

In an interview with CBS, De León offered apologies to Bonin’s family, and the city, but left directed apologies toward the communities who were the subject of the inflammatory comments general. 

De León added in the CBS interview, that he plans to repair his relationships in council, but it may be out of his control. Recently, L.A. council business halted due to continuing protests for De León’s resignation, and the council is deliberating whether it’s possible for council matters to move forward.

Krekorian, via a statement released on Twitter, asked for De León’s resignation in response to his media appearances. 

 

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