‘Completely destroyed’: Nury Martinez talks about the leaked recording and her life today

A person speaks into a microphone.
Then-Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez in 2020.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
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In Nury Martinez’s first interview since a leaked audio that prompted her resignation from City Hall, the former Los Angeles City Council president said that her comments were not intended to be racist, and that the scandal has left her and her family “completely destroyed.”

During the interview with LAist, Martinez said that on the day the audio became public, she had already accepted that the scandal was so huge she would need to step down — and that there was nothing she could say or do to undo the damage.

“I knew that there was gonna be consequences, that I needed to pay for this,” Martinez said.


LAist journalist Antonia Cereijido, as part of an extensive podcast on Martinez’s life, asked her about her use of the phrase “parece changuito,” which means “like a little monkey.” In the leaked audio, Martinez is heard recounting a story of being with other moms and uses the term to describe the young Black son of then-Councilmember Mike Bonin.

“The way I grew up with that word, ‘parece changuito.’ It has nothing to do with skin color. It has more to do with behavior. You’re sort of just playing around,” Martinez said, according to a transcript provided to The Times by LAist.

“You’re horsing around. Another word that we use in Spanish, “es travieso” [mischievous], you can’t stay put. It’s a conversation I should not have repeated. And I think that’s an example of a bunch of moms sitting around, you know, being critical of little boys’ behavior. That was my mistake. It was insensitive. It was mean. I never meant to hurt Jacob, and I’m going to have to live with that for the rest of my life, you know?” Martinez said.

“I think in Spanish, then I speak in English,” Martinez said. “And so my vocabulary comes from me being an English learner. And I think for me, those words are not meant to hurt anybody, or to sound racist at all. I think it’s just words that I grew up with.”

Martinez resigned a year ago from the City Council amid a furor over her remarks in a private meeting with then-Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, and City Councilmembers Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo. Martinez took a central role in the conversation and made offensive comments about Black people, Indigenous Oaxacans and others.

Kevin de León is the last one standing after an audio leak caught him in a conversation that featured racist and derogatory remarks. Now he’s running for reelection.

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In the interview with LAist, Martinez expressed regret for saying “tan feos’,” or “they’re ugly,” when talking about Oaxacan people who live in Koreatown.

“Oh my goodness. That’s another thing that I will never forgive myself for,” Martinez said. “That was just a horrible, insensitive thing to say. I certainly don’t have anything against the Oaxacan community. I feel horrible for having insulted the community.”


She also addressed what she said about Dist. Atty. George Gascón: “F— that guy. I’m telling you now, he’s with the Blacks.”

“You know, I walked in there really angry and frustrated and it was, it was a mean and insensitive thing to say, and I didn’t mean anything by it,” Martinez said.

Martinez added that she had “absolutely no relationship” with Gascón at the time and suggested the comment reflected her own anger.

Protesters were targeting her home over the city’s handling of homelessness and its vaccine mandate. Her relationship with Bonin, a onetime ally, was strained.

“Over the 2½ years that I was council president, I just grew more frustrated and angry and pissed off at everything. And that’s what you saw. That’s it,” Martinez said.

Martinez also criticized the media.

“I have always felt that as a Latina, I have never really been given a fair shake by the media. The coverage of these tapes in and of itself says it all. I think there was a deliberate concerted effort to take snippets of the conversation and put them out to the general public,” she said.


Today, she isn’t working, according to LAist, and is trying to manage her household finances. She said her husband is also not working. “What this has done to me and my family has completely destroyed us,” she said.

On Friday, De León and Cedillo filed separate lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court saying the recording did permanent harm to their reputations and careers. Both lawsuits allege invasion of privacy and negligence and seek damages.

Cedillo’s lawsuit targets the Federation of Labor and two onetime labor staffers. De León’s lawsuit names only the staffers.

One year since an audio leak of City Council members’ racist conversation rocked local politics and opened up old racial wounds, the healing process for many Angelenos is still ongoing.

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The leaked audio scandal marked a stunning downfall for Martinez, the daughter of immigrants from the Mexican state of Zacatecas who joined the council in 2013 after a come-from-behind victory.

In the interview published Monday, she describes staying in bed for days. She credits her mother and her church with helping her.

Martinez said she had several conversations with then-mayoral candidate Karen Bass in the first 24 hours after news of the secret recording broke.


Bass, who was elected mayor weeks later, guessed the scandal would “blow over in about one or two days,” Martinez said.

Bonin, reached Monday for comment about Martinez’s interview, said he thought she was essentially saying, “I didn’t mean it, I was having a bad day, or I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I thought she might have gone deeper and more reflective,” Bonin said.

Bonin said he hopes that the anniversary of the leaked audio sheds light on society’s treatment of Black children and studies showing that young Black children are subject to more and harsher discipline.

A day earlier, the former councilman posted an essay in which he talked about Martinez’s comments about his son’s behavior at a parade. In the leaked audio, Martinez is heard saying the boy needs a “beatdown.”

“She was doing what society does to Black children — subjecting them to a different standard, viewing them and treating them as older than they are. It is a widespread phenomenon,” Bonin wrote.

“I don’t think she meant to play into that narrative,” Bonin said Monday. “But I hope people can pay attention to how that narrative is used to endanger Black children.”