Nury Martinez has stepped down as Los Angeles City Council president amid fallout over being heard making racist remarks in audio leaked over the weekend.
“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry,” Martinez said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words.”
Public officials from across Los Angeles County on Sunday released statements denouncing the offensive remarks made during a private meeting held last year between three sitting L.A. City Council members and a local union leader.
Audio from the meeting was published Sunday in a report by the Los Angeles Times.
In the leaked audio, Martinez can be heard making derisive and racist comments about the child of Mike Bonin, the councilmember representing the 11th District.
Bonin, who is white, has an adopted son who is Black. In the leaked audio, Martinez can be heard describing Bonin’s son as a “changuito,” or little monkey, according to the Times.
The meeting also included fellow Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Federation President Ron Herrera.
De León at one point accuses Bonin of treating his son like an accessory, comparing him to a designer handbag. He also referred to Bonin as the council’s “fourth Black member,” the newspaper reported.
On Sunday, Martinez released a statement that reads in part:
“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.”
She indicated she was concerned about the potential negative impact that redistricting might have on “communities of color,” and added that her past work on the council “speaks for itself.”
In his own statement, De León voiced his regret for participating and at times condoning the remarks.
“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,” the statement read. “On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
Herrera also apologized for “my failure to stand up to racist and anti-black remarks.”
In a statement Monday, Cedillo apologized for not intervening in the conversation.
“It is my instinct to hold others accountable when they use derogatory or racially divisive language. Clearly, I should have intervened. I failed in holding others and myself to the highest standard,” Cedillo said. “The hurtful and harmful remarks made about my colleague’s son were simply unacceptable. We choose public life, but our families should always be off limits and never part of the political discourse.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom also weighed in on the controversial audio, saying he was “encouraged” that the involved parties apologized and “begun to take responsibility for their actions.
“Words matter, and racist language can do real harm,” the statement read. “These comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect.”
In December 2019, Martinez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, became the first Latina elected to the powerful role of council president.
In Monday’s statement announcing her resignation as president, Martinez said she understands her comments “undercut” her goal to empower communities of color.
“Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority. I have already reached out to many of my Black colleagues and other Black leaders to express my regret in order for us to heal,” the statement read. “I ask for forgiveness from my colleagues and from the residents of this city that I love so much. In the end, it is not my apologies that matter most; it will be the actions I take from this day forward. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to make amends.”
It appears Martinez will remain on the 15-member council, the Times reported.
In a statement after Martinez stepped down, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn indicated it would be “appropriate” for Bonin to become president until a new council is seated.