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L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez has resigned following backlash from the surfaced audio of racist and colorist comments made.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez announced a leave of absence following backlash from the surfaced audio of racist and colorist comments made. Photo: Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez announces leave of absence following leaked audio revealing racist comments

This follows many calls for her resignation after a leaked conversation involving Martinez and other Latino city leaders surfaced on Sunday.

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Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez announced a leave of absence on Monday, Oct. 10, following major backlash and calls for her resignation after an audio recording leaked of her making racist comments towards a colleague’s Black son in a conversation with other Latino leaders in the city.

She announced her decision in an email sent from her office. 

"I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry,” it began. "I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words: to my colleagues, their families, especially to Mike, Sean, and your son. As a mother, I know better and I am sorry. I am truly ashamed. I know this is the result of my own actions. I’m sorry to your entire family for putting you through this.”

Martinez went on to say how the comments “undercut” her personal goal of empowering communities of color, and then asked for forgiveness. 

"I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends,” she said. 

The leaked conversation was between Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, in which racist and colorist comments were made about other city leaders, including Councilmember Mike Bonin, and his young Black son. 

Martinez went after the Black son of Councilmember Bonin, Bonin himself, L.A. County DA George Gascón, and Oaxacans that live in a section of Koreatown. 

“Parece changuito,” she said of Bonin’s son, translated that he “looks like a monkey,” as well as saying Bonin’s handling of his son is like an “accessory.”

She also went after her Latino community and mocked Oaxacans, a part of southern Mexico that is known for its Indigenous people and culture. 

“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said of Shatto Place, a small street, and Lafayette Park, a section of Koreatown, in which Oaxacans reside, utilizing stereotypes long used against the community. 

“I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said. “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly,” she added. 

The group of city leaders again went at Bonin and his son in reference to when he appeared with his son on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade back in 2017, in which Martinez said the child was “an accessory.” She continued by saying: “Su negrito, like on the side,” a Spanish demeaning term used against Black people. 

In the same conversation, Martinez suggested the child was misbehaving on the float during the parade and that if her and another unnamed woman had not stepped in to “parent this kid,” the float might have tipped over. 

“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.” 

The conversation was secretly recorded back in October 2021. Martinez also made crass comments about how Los Angeles should be shaped concerning redistricting.

The audio first surfaced in a post on Reddit from a now-suspended user, and then obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Oct. 9. In the immediate aftermath, Martinez, and the other city leaders that were present for the conversation faced waves of backlash and criticism from Latino organizations, residents, and other leaders. 

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) were one of the first to call for Martinez’s resignation. 

“What we heard transpire during a conversation among our local leaders in the recording released this weekend was appalling, heartbreaking, and simply unacceptable. There is no room for racist language and hateful incendiary rhetoric to coexist with the duties of serving in public office, especially in a place as diverse as the City of Los Angeles,” a statement from the organization said. 

Comunidades Indígenas en liderazgo (CIELO), an Indigenous women-led non-profit organization that works with Indigenous communities in L.A., also called for her resignation in a press conference held earlier on Monday, outside Los Angeles City Hall. 

The People’s City Council of Los Angeles, an abolitionist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist collective, also tweeted a video out Sunday, Oct. 9, showing the group marching towards and making it to the outside of Martinez’s home. 

Martinez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, became the first Latina elected to the role of council president back in December 2019. 

The Los Angeles Times reported following her leave that it appears Martinez will still however remain on the 15-person council for the time being.

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