Breaking down crucial moments in the racist leaked recording of L.A. councilmembers
In what they thought was a private conversation, some of the most powerful people in Los Angeles politics gathered to discuss the city’s once-every-decade redistricting process. Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera were all present. Martinez is now facing calls for her resignation.
The far-ranging conversation, which focused heavily on councilmembers’ frustration with maps that had been proposed by the city’s 21-member redistricting commission, included racist remarks, crude comments about some of their council colleagues and discussion of how to consolidate and preserve political power.
A leaked recording of L.A. City Council members and a labor official includes racist remarks. Council President Nury Martinez apologizes; Councilmember Kevin de León expresses regret.
Martinez and the other Latino leaders present during the taped conversation were seemingly unaware they were being recorded as Martinez said a white councilmember handled his young Black son as though he were an “accessory” and said that Councilmember Mike Bonin’s son “parece changuito,” or is “like a monkey.”
Martinez also mocked Oaxacans and said “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
The conversation, which took place in mid-October 2021, remained private for nearly a year until an audio leak exploded into public view Sunday. Here are some of the key moments.
Laughter and racist comments about Mike Bonin’s young son
Council President Nury Martinez makes racist remarks about Councilmember Mike Bonin’s young son while others chime in during this section of the conversation. The group was discussing a dispute between Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who were at odds last year over whose district would represent USC and Exposition Park once the new maps were finalized. The clip begins with Martinez recounting a conversation she allegedly had with businessman Danny Bakewell.
Bonin’s son was brought into the conversation as the group discussed a dispute between Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who were at odds last year over whose district would represent USC and Exposition Park once the new maps were finalized. Both men are Black and represent parts of South Los Angeles.
Martinez told the group she had a conversation with businessman Danny Bakewell about the situation, and argued that if Harris-Dawson was seeking an economic asset for his district that he should seek to move Los Angeles International Airport out of Bonin’s Westside district and into his.
“Go get the airport from his little brother — that little bitch Bonin,” Martinez recalled advising Bakewell.
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.”
A leaked audio recording of members of the L.A. City Council, including Council President Nury Martinez has rocked L.A. politics months before a key election.
De León seemed to compare Bonin’s handling of the child to “when Nury brings her Goyard 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 hadn’t stepped 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.”
Attacking Oaxacans in Koreatown
In a recorded conversation on Koreatown and redistricting, Nury Martinez makes racist comments on Oaxacans and talks of limiting Councilmember Nithya Raman.
The discussion later turns to how Koreatown should be handled in the redistricting process. Martinez speaks openly about not wanting to give the area to Councilmember Nithya Raman, or give her a renter-heavy district that might be more politically favorable for the progressive councilmembers.
“It serves us to not give her all of K-Town,” Martinez said. “Because if you do, that solidifies her renters’ district and that is not a good thing for any of us. You have to keep her on the fence.”
Instead of taking responsibility for the underwhelming state of Latino political power, the councilmembers just whined about their predicament and blamed everyone else — in racist terms.
The group then questioned whether Shatto Place, a small street, and Lafayette Park are in Koreatown.
“I see a lot of little short dark people,” Martinez said of that section of Koreatown, employing stereotypes long used against Oaxacans in Mexico and in the United States.
“I was like, I don’t know where these people are from, I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here,” Martinez said, before adding “Tan feos” — “They’re ugly.”
Martinez on George Gascón
The topic of conversation moved to Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who was facing growing political opposition.
Martinez says “F— that guy … He’s with the Blacks” while speaking about Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón.
Discussing Mark Ridley-Thomas’ fate
City Council Nury Martinez discusses City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ relationship with the city after his indictment on bribery charges. It’s up to City Controller Ron Galperin to decide whether he will still get paid, Martinez said. She then goes on to state that it’s “white” politicians that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”
Martinez said she explained to another councilmember that if Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, who had been indicted on corruption charges, were to be suspended from the council, City Controller Ron Galperin would decide whether he still gets paid.
“You need to go talk to that white guy,” she says. “It’s not us. It’s the white members on this council that will motherf— you in a heartbeat.”
The council later suspended Ridley-Thomas, who is awaiting trial on bribery and other federal charges. Galperin ultimately terminated Ridley-Thomas’ pay and health benefits.
In a conversation about redistricting, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez slams the redistricting committee, saying the commission “has f—ing gone rogue and they’re f—ing useless.” Councilmember Gil Cedillo discusses how Councilmember Nithya Raman is not their “ally” and doesn’t merit their help.
In a conversation about redistricting, Martinez slams the redistricting committee, saying the commission “has f— gone rogue and they’re f— useless.”
Cedillo discusses how Raman is not their “ally” and doesn’t merit their help.
“So you’re saying that’s the one to put in the blender and chop up,” De León says of Raman’s district, before Martinez tells him, “that’s what they did.”
The councilmembers are talking about a proposal from the city’s redistricting commission, which would have made huge changes to Raman’s Hollywood Hills district. One plan would have caused her to lose more than 70% of her district, while another would move her into an entirely new district.
Ron Herrera brings up City Council candidate Hugo Soto-Martínez, who is running against incumbent Mitch O’Farrell. Herrera explains the group needs to ‘protect Mitch.’
Herrera — head of the city’s top labor organization — brings up City Council candidate and labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martínez, who is running against incumbent Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. Herrera then explains the group needs to “ protect Mitch.”
‘Cut their deal’
Martinez can be heard saying the “judíos” — which means Jews in Spanish — “cut their deal with South L.A.”
Martinez was responding to former Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, who had concluded, “I’m sure Katz and his crew have an agenda,” referring to former state Assemblymember Richard Katz.
Katz served on the city’s 21-member redistricting commission that worked on council district boundary maps. He was an appointee of City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
‘He also wants his guy elected’
Martinez also spoke about Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, who is of Armenian descent, and Councilmember Paul Krekorian, the first Armenian American to be elected to public office in Los Angeles.
“He also wants his guy elected,” said Martinez, referring to Krekorian. “So he needs a district that Adrin Nazarian could win it. That’s what they want. They want to assure, they want to be reassured that they have, not an Armenian district in the Valley, because that doesn’t exist, but they want as many Armenians in that district as possible to be able to play.”
Martinez added that she didn’t know whether Nazarian could get elected in a “pretty white” district.
“Now, I don’t think Adrin ... gets elected. If a white, a reputable white businesswoman was in that district ... [it] is still pretty white. But that’s on them,” she said. “I’m not — I’m not cutting that deal with anybody because I don’t know. I don’t know that he can win.”
Later in the conversation, Martinez was attempting to identify Areen Ibranossian, a former chief of staff for Krekorian who is now a senior advisor to Rick Caruso’s campaign for mayor. Someone in the room asks, “What’s his name? What’s he look like?” She said he’s “the guy with the one eyebrow.”
“I like him,” Martinez said, adding that he is married to a friend of hers.
When Martinez couldn’t recall his last name and asked what it was, Cedillo responded, “It ends in i-a-n, I bet you.”
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