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LA City Council Candidate Bray-Ali Faces Heat Over Derogatory Comments

LOS ANGELES ( – A day after derogatory comments he made online came to light, City Council candidate Joe Bray-Ali found himself on the defensive Thursday, with Councilman Mitch O'Farrell pulling his endorsement and leaders of the LGBT community calling on him to withdraw from the race.

City Controller Ron Galperin and Councilman Mike Bonin also denounced Bray-Ali's online comments, which included using the N-word to describe black people and stating that undergoing gender-reassignment surgery "doesn't seem like something worthy of praise, but instead of being criticized as a shameful excess."

Galperin held a news conference with some LBGT leaders at the Placita Olvera Kiosk several blocks from City Hall where he called on the challenger to drop out.

"An apology does not erase the actions," Galperin said.

Galperin was joined by Richard Zaldivar, president and CEO of The Wall Las Memorias Project, Richard Corral, board member of Honor Pac, and Justine Gonzalez of the city's Transgender Advisory Council. Equality California, a statewide LGBT civil rights group, and the Courage Campaign, a progressive organization, also denounced Bray-Ali and called for him to withdraw.

Bray-Ali, 38, is challenging 1st District City Councilman Gil Cedillo, 63. Cedillo was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali's 37.97 percent.

Bray-Ali's online comments, which were made a little over a year ago, came to light on Wednesday and were first reported by LAist.

The candidate apologized for the comments on his campaign's Facebook page and vowed to stay in the race. He said he made the comments because he wanted to engage "bigots and hate-mongers" to understand them better and "ended up sounding like a bigot myself. And I'm not proud of it."

"I am still in this race," Bray-Ali said. "We are still in this race. There are more attacks coming for sure. I can't defend much of what I said online. ... There's only one thing to do in this city right now -- and that is keep moving forward. I am ready to move forward from here with what people in this district care about and deserve."

O'Farrell, who had endorsed Bray-Ali but pulled his support Thursday, said he was "deeply disappointed by his highly insensitive comments in online forums that breed hate and dehumanize already marginalized communities."

Cedillo also denounced the remarks. `

"The comments made by Joe Bray-Ali on Voat are disgraceful and have no place in the public square," Cedillo said in part Wednesday.

Bray-Ali's comments included disparaging remarks about overweight people. He also used the N-word in one of the forums.

On Thursday, Bray-Ali spoke to CBS2's Dave Lopez. While he sounded somewhat contrite, Bray-Ali was asked by Lopez if he was a racist or a bigot.

Rather than just saying "no," he replied, "You know, that's a hard question to answer -- it's like when did you stop beating your wife?"

He added, "I've lived a life that I think has clearly shown that those aren't things I believe in, those aren't values that I believe in."

CBS 2's Peter Daut found constituents a little taken aback that Bray-Ali was not more contrite and staying in the race.

As of Thursday evening, Bray-Ali called the comments he made on social media "the biggest mistake" of his life and again refused to drop out of the race.

At Cypress Best Burgers customers just thought Bray-Ali should be eating more crow.

"That's wrong," said Aldo Martinez, "[what he did] was definitely wrong."

The Indian-American Bray-Ali told Lopez he apologized -- for "engaging in the cesspool of the internet."

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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