Councilman Kevin De León, Once the 'Great Hispanic Hope,' Destined to Become a Cautionary Tale?

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin De León may be running and hiding from taking responsibility for his own racist remarks caught on audio, but he can’t maintain this stance for long.


His constituents, a good chunk of them of Hispanic and Latino origin, are protesting this Saturday in front of District 14’s Boyle Heights office. Boyle Heights residents are already Big Mad over the city of Los Angeles’ plans to convert an empty Sears department store into homeless housing. Now, thanks to the LAtinX Scandal, their Latino Knight has fallen off his horse, and is being trampled.

The anger from the protestors is palpable, even through this short clip.


Nice drum rhythm to their march. Three times the protestors chanted,

“Fuera, Fuera, Fuera! Kevin de León!”

“Fuera” means “out” or “gone.” In case the news media didn’t understand Spanish, the protestors did a chant in English so that there was no mistaking what they wanted.

Person on Bullhorn: “What do we want?”

Protestors: “Resignation!”

Person on Bullhorn: “When do we want it?!”

Protestors: “NOW!”

Yeah, he’s toast.

The Los Angeles Times has committed another random act of journalism, profiling de León’s rise as the golden boy of Los Angeles. Many considered him the great Hispanic Hope. After that leaked conversation, not any more.

Nearly 20 minutes into the secretly recorded conversation that would cost Nury Martinez her L.A. City Council seat, she remarked to fellow Councilmember Kevin de León that it was recently his anniversary. Seven years ago, he had been sworn in as the leader of the California Senate.

The ceremony at Walt Disney Concert Hall was a career landmark, celebrating the first time in more than a century that a Latino led the state’s upper chamber. It ushered in four years when De León was one of California’s most powerful politicians. But instead of nostalgia, De León spoke of the memory as a deep wound.

“That swearing-in ceremony, I got s— on all over for that,” De León said, recounting how his event was portrayed by the media as unnecessarily lavish while a white politician’s gala in the same venue got no negative coverage. His theory why? “Because we as Latinos — whether you’re labor or you’re in the political space — we’re not supposed to fill those positions.”

The anecdote has received little attention amid the furious reaction to the leaked audio of the conversation, rife with racism, homophobia and general divisiveness, that has left City Hall in shambles. But De León’s recollection of his swearing-in, much like other comments woven into the hour-plus recording, offers a window into his political ambition, personal grievance and decades-long project of solidifying Latino power. In short, it captures the mind-set of a onetime Democratic rising star whose career now risks near-total collapse.


Our Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar supplied the full transcript of the LAtinX Scandal conversation. That excerpt is here:

DeLeon is angry over swearing-in ceremony furor, in a leaked conversation. Screenshot credit: LAtinX Scandal leaked transcript.

Yeah, that gargantuan-sized chip on his shoulder may well have toppled him. Acting City Council President Mitch O’Farrell has attempted to track de León down in the hopes of convincing him to resign. Mayor-in-hiding Eric Garcetti even emerged from his bunker to join the rising chorus calling for De León’s resignation.

The chorus of calls for De León’s resignation include his City Council colleagues, Mayor Eric Garcetti, President Biden and some of his oldest friends. His allies, many of whom requested anonymity in order to speak candidly, expressed deep disappointment that De León did not stop the racist discourse and that he described Councilmember Mike Bonin, a political foe, as using his adopted Black son as a prop akin to a designer handbag. But they point out that his comments were not nearly as offensive as Martinez’s myriad slurs.

“Kevin is not a racist,” said Fabian Núñez, the former Assembly speaker who has been close to De León since their teenage years. “What he said on that occasion is inappropriate. What he didn’t say is also inappropriate. But no way, no how is he a racist.”

Tell it to the judge. Progressive opinions to the contrary, his comments do reflect racism, and much more. De León’s comments reflect a classist and elitist view, which is why he willingly and gleefully participated in his and his cohorts carving up the city and pushing out other councilpersons of color in order to secure their power. These viewpoints are attributed to white supremacy and privilege, so it is a clutch the pearls moment for the progressive bastion in the city that these viewpoints are being enunciated by Los Angeles’ self-styled native son.

De León says white people will cut you, in a leaked conversation. Screenshot credit: LAtinX Scandal leaked transcript.

It’s a rude awakening to many, especially the publication of record for this bunch, the L.A. Times.

The recording revealed that De León’s perspective was heavily defined by race and class. He expressed deep distrust that Black and white colleagues would treat Latino politicians fairly. The biggest threat to Latinos was not “those crazies in Orange County who are pro-Trump,” he said. “It’s the white liberals. It’s the L.A. Times.”

De León, 55, declined an interview request. He has not made a public statement since he expressed regret after the story broke on Sunday.

And De Leon’s bona fides as a progressive politician are doing nothing for him these days, as climbers like Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez, who out-wrangled Gil Cedillo for his District 1 seat, and Assemblyman Isaac Bryant, who is rumored to be disgraced Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ heir apparent, are doing all they can to push DeLeon off the stage.

They are succeeding at this.

But some in Los Angeles, especially those engaged in activism for homeless people, were deeply skeptical of De León’s progressive bona fides.

“He talks likes a progressive, walks like a liberal — at best,” said Pete White, executive director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “When you look at his track record, you might look at the overt anti-Black racism and say this is an aberration. But this is one big-ass aberration. Your leadership has to be solid throughout.”

The skepticism turned into open hostility by the start of this year, when activists clashed with De León’s efforts to reduce the number of encampments by moving homeless people into temporary housing or other forms of shelter.

On the recording, his antipathy shines through, mocking the protesters at homeless encampments as Tesla drivers from Silver Lake.


De León’s comments sound a lot like his good friend, California Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. When Gonzalez Fletcher was the District 80 representative in the California Assembly, she maligned independent contractors as labor brokers and other slurs when they advocated against the passage of her AB5 bill. De León and Gonzalez Fletcher were as thick as thieves during De León’s 12 years in the Senate, when they “served” together in the California Legislature, co-authoring many bills, among other things.

Normally loud and proud in stirring the pot and expanding a scandal, especially when it is to her advantage, Gonzalez Fletcher’s Twitter feed has been oddly silent in either condemnation or support for her good friend Kevin De León.

This is quite curious. More on this at another time.

As RedState has reported, De León has been in the crosshairs of scandal involving others, like the sexual harassment charges against former state Senator Anthony Mendoza and others while De León was president of the body (above). In 2014, De León was mentioned 56 times in the FBI investigation against former state Senator Ron Calderon, who was indicted on 24 counts including bribery, money laundering, and tax fraud. De León testified for the prosecution, although it was never ascertained whether he cooperated fully or had to be subpoenaed. By 2016, Calderon was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison, but De León kept his position and skated.


Once De León was termed out of the Legislature, he did the usual California political shuffle and slid into his disgraced friend Jose Huizar‘s District 14 Los Angeles City Council seat. But De León’s luck may have finally run out.

Expect more of De León’s checkered past to be trotted out in the coming days, particularly if he continues to remain radio silent and refuses to resign.


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