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Biden calls on Nury Martinez, other L.A. councilmembers to resign after audio leak

President Biden disembarks from Marine One on White House's South Lawn
President Biden, disembarking from Marine One on White House’s South Lawn, is now the highest-profile political figure to weigh in on the firestorm that has generated outrage across Los Angeles.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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President Biden believes Nury Martinez and other councilmembers should resign from the Los Angeles City Council over racist remarks heard in leaked recordings that were made public this week, a White House spokesperson said Tuesday.

“The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, calling the language recorded during the conversation “unacceptable” and “appalling.”

Audio of Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo speaking with labor leader Ron Herrera quickly became a new and incendiary issue in the Nov. 8 election.

May 8, 2023

Biden is now the highest-profile political figure to weigh in on the firestorm that has generated outrage across the city.

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Jean-Pierre’s comments came on the eve of a four-day Western swing that will bring Biden to Los Angeles and Orange counties, and just hours after Martinez announced she would take a leave of absence from the council rather than give up her seat.

By weighing in ahead of Biden’s trip, the White House sought to deal with the controversy before the president arrives in California, where he is set to hold two public events and attend a fundraiser with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Thursday night.

The president joins a long list of California Democrats who have criticized Martinez, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Alex Padilla and both mayoral candidates, Karen Bass and Rick Caruso.

Responding to a question in the briefing room, Jean-Pierre took the opportunity to draw a broader contrast for voters as the midterm elections near.

“Here’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans: When a Democrat says something racist or antisemitic ... we hold Democrats accountable,” she said. “When a MAGA Republican says something racist and/or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated and sought after.”

She referenced comments by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) at a rally with President Trump last weekend suggesting that Black people are more likely to commit crimes.

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Biden, who was propelled through the 2020 primary largely thanks to his strong support from Black voters, has made a point of speaking out on a racial injustice and promised that equity would be a hallmark of his administration.

L.A. City Councilmember Nury Martinez is taking a leave of absence amid outrage over her racist comments heard on a leaked audio recording.

Oct. 11, 2022

Although Democrats have failed to advance voting rights legislation during his time in office, Biden has frequently condemned racism. He is determined to convey solidarity on what he sees as a bedrock issue for the country, and he is far less constrained by self-restraint than President Obama was during his eight years in office.

Martinez, who has now issued multiple apologies, became the first Latina to hold the powerful position of City Council president in 2019.

The representative from the San Fernando Valley used racist terms and denigrated colleagues during an October 2021 meeting with two other city councilmembers while they were discussing the city’s redistricting process.

Martinez focused in particular on Councilmember Mike Bonin, who is white, and Bonin’s young son, who is Black. At one point, Martinez called Bonin a “little bitch” and referred to his son as a “changuito,” which means “little monkey” in Spanish. She also said Bonin’s son had misbehaved on a parade float and needed a “beatdown.”

Three Latino members of the council and a top county labor official held a conversation last fall that included racist remarks.

Oct. 11, 2022

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