Councilmember Kevin de León told Tom Wait today in an exclusive interview that he is refusing to resign from LA City Council, but rather hopes to work towards repairing relationships that have been damaged in recent weeks.
"I have to do the hard work. I have to repair. I have to help heal. I have to help restore," the councilman said.
Despite rampant calls for resignation in the nearly two weeks since the leaked audio, de León does not follow the steps of Councilmember Nury Martinez who resigned last Wednesday afternoon.
De León said he refused to resign so he can ensure that his constituents in District 14 continue to be represented on City Council.
"It's about City District 14," he said. "A district that's been underrepresented and has gone through much difficulty in the past without political representation... They do deserve political representation."
Thede León, Martinez and Councilmember Gil Cedillo as well as L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The racist comments were made during an October 2021 conversation about the redistricting process. During the hour-long conversation, the group discussed the redistricting process while also making racist comments about residents and Councilmember 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 directed toward Martinez's "penchant for having luxury goods." Nonetheless, 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 didn't answer his phone call in the wake of the audio leak. He also said that he had planned to publicly apologize 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 the family of Mike Bonin — to my family, to all those who have supported me."
Herrera was the, doing so a day after the audio was released.
De León and Cedillo both have yet to step down, despite passionate protests calling for their resignation. Senior politicians such as President Joe Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti have denounced the trio and joined the public's calls for their resignation.
"I accept my responsibility for a lot of that pain that exists today," de León said Wednesday, noting that he's reached out to various city leaders and organizations to have "hard conversations" with about his involvement in the incident.
"It's not going to be easy," he said. "It's gonna be hard, as it should be. I know it's going to be hard. That's why I don't I'm not going to mince words or I'm not going to deflect blame."
He also said he hasn't had a chance to speak to 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 is deepening the wound he has inflicted on Los Angeles."
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