Councilman Kevin de León told Tom Wait today in an exclusive interview that he refuses to resign from the LA City Council, but rather hopes to work toward repairing conditions that have been damaged in recent weeks.
“I’m going to do the hard work. I’m going to repair. I’m going to help heal. I’m going to help restore,” the councilman said.
Despite vociferous calls for his resignation in the nearly two weeks since the leaked audio, de León is not following in the footsteps of Councilor Nury Martinez, who resigned last Wednesday afternoon.
De León said he refused to resign so he can ensure his District 14 constituents continue to be represented on the City Council.
“It’s about City District 14,” he said. “A district that has been underrepresented and has gone through a lot of hardship in the past without political representation… They deserve political representation.”
Thatde León, Martinez and Councilman Gil Cedillo as well as President Ron Herrera of the LA County Federation of Labor. The racist comments were made during a conversation in October 2021 about the redistricting process. During the hour-long conversation, the group discussed the redistricting process while also making racist comments about residents and Councilman Mike Bonin’s black 2-year-old son.
“I failed in my leadership,” he said. “I didn’t step up and intervene. I didn’t put a stop to it.”
In the discussion, Martinez referred to Bonin’s son as a “little monkey” in Spanish, while de León compared the 2-year-old child to one of Martinez’s handbags. He later said he was “shocked” by Martinez’s comments and said his “joke” was aimed at Martinez’s “love of having luxury goods.” Nevertheless, he apologized for his comments.
“I shouldn’t have made that flippant remark,” he said.
De León claims to have apologized “profusely” to Bonin and his family over voicemail when he did not return his phone call in the wake of the audio leak. He also said he had planned to apologize publicly at the first city council meeting since the leak last Tuesday, but was unable to do so.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry to my constituents,” he said. “I’m sorry to my colleagues. I’m sorry to Mike Bonin’s family — to my family, to all those who have supported me.”
Herrera wasdo it a day after the audio was released.
De León and Cedillo have both yet to step down, despite passionate protests calling for their resignation. Senior politicians such as President Joe Biden, Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti have condemned the trio and joined public calls for their resignation.
“I accept my responsibility for a lot of the pain that exists today,” de León said Wednesday, noting that he has reached out to various city leaders and organizations to have “tough conversations” with them about his involvement in the incident.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s going to be hard, as it should be. I know it’s going to be hard. That’s why I’m not doing it. I’m not going to cut corners or I’m not going to deflect blame.”
He also said he hasn’t had a chance to speak with Martinez, Cedillo or Herrera since the audio leak.
Councilman Bonin issued a statement via Twitter moments after the interview first aired.
“He cannot be part of the healing as long as he refuses to resign,” the tweet said. “His stubborn refusal to do what everyone else knows is necessary deepens the wound he has inflicted on Los Angeles.”