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Jeremy B. White

LA City Council president resigns leadership post following leaked recording of racist remarks

Nury Martinez at podium during a news conference at Los Angeles City Hall on April 1, 2022. | Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez resigned her leadership post on Monday morning over a recording in which Martinez made racist comments and discussed using redistricting to reshape power in the city.

“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I'm so sorry,” Martinez said in a lengthy resignation statement. “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.”

While Martinez is resigning as president, she has not said she would give up her seat on the council despite intensifying pressure for her to do so, along with two other city council members and a prominent labor leader caught on the tape.

The audio rocked California’s political sphere over the weekend, spurring disgust and calls for Martinez to relinquish power, along with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Multiple sitting members of the 15-person city council have said the people on the tape should exit office. Leaders of a powerful labor union, SEIU California, called on all of them to step aside on Monday, as did the California Federation of Teachers.

Martinez and de León can be heard on the tape disparaging the young Black son of a fellow white councilmember. De León likens the child to an accessory and Martinez suggests he deserves a “beatdown” and refers to him in Spanish as a “little monkey.” The audio appeared to have been surreptitiously recorded more than a year ago.

The tape also illuminates the raw exercise of power, as Martinez and others discuss using the redistricting process to punish political rivals and empower allies. They talk about diluting renters’ power in one district, making it harder for the incumbent to win re-election, and about allocating economic “assets” like an airport.

With ballots hitting voters’ mailboxes ahead of the November election, the tape swiftly rippled through a fiercely contested mayoral race whose winner will need to work with the council. Businessman Rick Caruso said all three council members needed to resign. Rep. Karen Bass on Sunday called the remarks “appalling, anti-Black racism.”

“All those in the room must be held accountable, and I’ve spent the day speaking with Black and Latino leaders about how to ensure this doesn’t divide our city,” Bass said in a statement.

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