A stunning recording from a Los Angeles City council meeting dated October 2021 reveals Council President Nury Martinez repeatedly using offensive, racist language while describing colleagues, other city officials—even the baby of one of her fellow councilmembers. I’m not usually one to take great offense when people are caught making inappropriate comments—after all, we live in a “gotcha” culture—but even my jaw dropped when I read some of the things this lovely lady had to say.
This is unbelievable: LA City Council President Nury Martinez was recorded calling a fellow councilmember's 2 year-old Black son "a little monkey" and said she wanted to give him a "beat-down." She said this about a TWO YEAR OLD. @CD6Nury must resign. https://t.co/RPlwBNyxaN pic.twitter.com/vs1nKGzkr0
— Adam Conover (@adamconover) October 9, 2022
She called a supervisor’s son a Spanish colloquialism for “little monkey,” dubbed Council member Mike Bonin “a bitch,” and said of County District Attorney George Gascón, “F*** that guy. He’s with the Blacks.” I’m no fan of Gascón or Bonin, but this is nasty stuff.
It’s unknown at this point who leaked the recording. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Audio of the wide-ranging, roughly hour-long conversation was posted on Reddit by a now-suspended user. It is unclear who recorded the audio, who uploaded it to Reddit and whether anyone else was present.
According to their website, the City Council is “the governing body of the City, except as otherwise provided in the Charter, and enacts ordinances subject to the approval or veto of the Mayor.” Their job description does not appear to include demeaning others.
To make the matter even worse, other council members seemed to lose their filters as well. Councilmember Kevin de León compared Bonin’s handling of his child to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton handbag, and also referred to Bonin as the council’s “fourth Black member.” Bonin is white.
“Mike Bonin won’t f—ing ever say peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a f—ing word about us,” he said.
L.A. Councilman Kevin de León breaks his silence on his recorded convo with Council President Nury Martinez & crew, saying he "fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders" pic.twitter.com/esnjDmDPSR
— David Zahniser 🦅 (@DavidZahniser) October 9, 2022
Sadly, there’s more.
Martinez said that Bonin appeared with his son on a float in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that featured a number of politicians. She also said the child was “an accessory.”
De León seemed to compare Bonin’s handling of the child to “when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”
“Su negrito, like on the side,” Martinez said, using a Spanish diminutive term for a Black person that can be considered demeaning. Martinez suggested the child was misbehaving on the float and might have tipped over the float if she and the other women on the float didn’t step in to “parent this kid.” “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.”
After the article exposing these comments was published in the LA Times Sunday, Martinez offered one of the weakest apologies imaginable:
“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 context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color,” she added. “My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”
That is one of the worst mea culpas I have ever heard, and is the embodiment of the phrase “sorry, not sorry.”
An interesting angle here is the evolution of the Los Angeles Times headlines: at 9:14 am Sunday, they went with “In leaked audio, L.A. council members make racially charged remarks, mock colleagues,” but by 2:59 PM they’d updated it to read the more concise “L.A. council members make racist remarks….” One can only assume that their initial inclination was to protect the Democrat councilwoman, but they had to backtrack when critics pointed out that “racially charged” was a severe understatement.
Martinez first rose to fame as the city’s first Latina City Council President:
Bonin, the subject of several of Martinez’s barbs, weighed in on the controversy in an interview with the Times:
“There’s more I will say later, but right now because I’m still digesting it,” Bonin said. “I’m disgusted and angry and heartsick. It’s fair game to attack me but my son? You have to be pretty petty and insecure and venomous to attack a child. He wasn’t even 3 years old. Other than that, I’m speechless.”
We all say things that we’d rather not have recorded for the world to hear, but this is some truly toxic stuff that the Council President is spewing out. It’s hard to see how she can regain the public’s trust and continue in her position. Kevin de León, meanwhile, has some pretty serious egg on his face as well.
UPDATE Sunday, October 9 at 7:40 PM PST: Mike Bonin and his husband Sean Arian released a fuller statement on Sunday that we did not include in our original story:
Our family statement about today's ugly and hateful news. pic.twitter.com/0fPPXwsS5B
— Mike Bonin (@mikebonin) October 9, 2022