Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez resigned from her role on Monday after she was caught making racist comments and disparaging her colleagues in leaked audio of a meeting with fellow Latino leaders.
First reported by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Martinez's remarks in the recording, which is more than an hour long, have sparked growing calls for her, councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, all of whom were in the meeting, to resign from their posts.
Throughout the taped conversation, which centered on the issue of redistricting, Martinez, the first Latina to serve as president of LA's city council, is heard making degrading and racist remarks about her colleagues and other officials. At one point, she refers to Councilmember Mike Bonin's Black son as "parece changuito," or "like a monkey," as she describes how the boy was "bouncing off the effing walls" on a float at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, and says that Bonin, who is white, treats the child as "an accessory."
"They're raising him like a little white kid," Martinez says. "I was like, this kid needs a beatdown, like, let me take him around the corner, then I'll bring him back."
During the conversation, which, according to the Times, took place in October 2021, Martinez also makes fun of Oaxacans living in the Koreatown neighborhood of LA, calling them ugly and "little short dark people" and laughing about how she doesn't know "what village they came" from or "how they got here." As the conversation veers into discussion about Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, she says "fuck that guy" in reference to the prosecutor. "He's with the Blacks," she adds.
In a statement announcing her resignation as council president, Martinez apologized and said that there were "no excuses" for what she said.
"As a mother, I know better and I am sorry," she said. "As someone who believes deeply in the empowerment of communities of color, I recognize my comments undercut that goal. Going forward, reconciliation will be my priority."
The leak comes just weeks away from the Nov. 8 general election. Though Martinez is not up for reelection this year, elected officials and other candidates latched onto her remarks as a sticking point for the city's future.
"Los Angeles must move in a new direction, and that is not possible unless the four individuals caught on that tape resign from their offices immediately," US Rep. Karen Bass, who is running for Los Angeles mayor, said in a statement.
Her opponent, Rick Caruso, also called on the officials to step down from the council, as did Sen. Alex Padilla.
"At a time when our nation is grappling with a rise in hate speech and hate crimes, these racist comments have deepened the pain that our communities have endured," Padilla said in a statement. "Los Angeles deserves better."
In the audio recording, de León, who lost the mayoral primary earlier this year, is also heard seemingly comparing Bonin bringing his child to events with Martinez carrying a Goyard or Louis Vuitton bag. The former state Senate majority leader also complains about how white members of his caucus were quick to dismiss former state senator Tony Mendoza, who resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed several women.
"White folk will cut you in a heartbeat, and then when it's them, they'll figure out some shit," de León says in the recording.
In a statement, de León said he regretted "appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family," saying the remarks were "wholly inappropriate."
"On that day, I fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders — and I will hold myself to a higher standard," he said.
Cedillo, who will leave office later this year after losing the June primary, told the Times he didn't remember the conversation. Herrera apologized as he acknowledged that he "didn’t step up to stop them," the newspaper reported.
"I will have to bear the burden of that cross moving forward," he said.
Representatives for Martinez, de León, Cedillo, and Herrera did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment regarding the calls for them to resign.