Two members of the Los Angeles City Council and a union leader released apology statements Sunday after a report published by the Los Angeles Times included transcribed leaked audio of offensive and racist remarks that were made during a private meeting. A third council member claimed to have no recollection of the conversation.
In the leaked audio, which was summarized by the Times but was originally posted to Reddit and remains readily available on social media, Council President Nury Martinez can be heard making derisive and racist comments about the child of Mike Bonin, the council member 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 “ese changuito,” or that little monkey, according to the Times. At one point, Martinez also refers to Bonin as a “little bitch.”
The comments were made during a discussion regarding Bonin and his son participating in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade several years ago. Bonin and his son were on a float with other members of the Los Angeles political scene, and Martinez apparently was dissatisfied with the boy’s behavior, saying he nearly tipped the float over. She can also be heard accusing Bonin of raising the child like a “little white kid.”
The meeting, which the Times reports happened last October on Los Angeles County Federation of Labor property, 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 Times reports.
The meeting was part of a broader discussion regarding the city’s redistricting, which happens once every 10 years. Those in attendance were critical of the maps drawn up by the districting commission and voiced their frustration over the process.
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.”
The statement continues with Martinez saying she was concerned about the potential negative impact that redistricting might have on “communities of color.” She added that her past work on the council “speaks for itself.”
De León released a statement of his own, in which he voices 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 reads. “On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
In his statement, Herrera apologized for “my failure to stand up to racist and anti-black remarks.”
“There is no justification and no excuse for the vile remarks made in that room. Period. And I didn’t step up to stop them and I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward,” the statement says.
The Times reached out to Cedillo for a statement on the leaked audio. Cedillo told the Times that he did not remember the meeting.
Bonin released a statement Sunday afternoon in which he says he and his husband were “appalled, angry and absolutely disgusted” by the comments made toward their son.
“We love our son, a beautiful, joyful child, and our family is hurting today. No child should ever be subjected to such racist, mean and dehumanizing comments, especially from a public official,” Bonin’s statement reads in part. “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.”
Bonin has since called on Martinez, de León and Cedillo to resign from the City Council, as did Councilmember Nithya Raman.
Incoming Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, who will replace Cedillo after defeating him in an election earlier this year, called on Martinez to resign and for de León and Cedillo to be removed from committees.
Councilmember Paul Koretz also called on Martinez to resign “for the good of the City.”
Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who serves as president pro tempore, which is second only to the council president, called for Martinez to step down from her council leadership post.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also weighed in on the controversial leaked audio, saying in a statement:
“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.”