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Former L.A. City Council president resigns amid uproar over leaked audio of racist remarks

Nury Martinez said she's resigning with a "broken heart" from the seat she has held for nine years in a district she grew up in.
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The former president of the Los Angeles City Council at the center of a controversy over leaked audio of racist remarks resigned from the elected board Wednesday.

In a statement, Nury Martinez said she is resigning from her district seat after nine years.

“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” she said.

“When I ran in 2013, I wanted to see a change in my community and fight for my neighbors. That is what it has been about all along. No one expected me to win, but with the support of residents throughout the district I overcame that challenge and won the seat for Council District 6. I had the honor of serving in the role of a lifetime: being the representative for my neighbors.”

Martinez and fellow council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo have apologized for their roles in a meeting last year that was secretly recorded. Martinez resigned as council president this week.

Martinez stepped down after a recording revealed she had called her colleague Mike Bonin’s then-2-year-old son, who is Black, a “changuito,” Spanish for “monkey.” She is also heard on the recording implying that Los Angeles County’s progressive district attorney shouldn’t be supported because he is “with the Blacks.”

The meeting, which apparently was about redistricting, was attended by the three council members and Ron Herrera, the president of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The recording surfaced on a Reddit discussion board this month but was deleted. The source of the audio is unknown, and NBC News hasn’t determined whether it has been edited.

The remarks about Bonin’s son concerned the child’s behavior at a parade in 2017, when he was 2 years old. Martinez used a Spanish term to refer to the boy as an animal.

Martinez also dismissed Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, a justice reform advocate who is reviled by law-and-order politicians and has survived two Republican-led recall attempts, as unworthy of the support of the people in the room.

“F--- that guy. He’s with the Blacks,” she said.

Also on the recording, de León called Bonin, who is white, the 15-seat council’s “fourth Black member.” De León said Bonin doesn’t support Latinos — that he has never said “a peep” about them.

Martinez asked why Bonin allegedly thinks he’s Black, and de León responded, “His kid is.”

De León — a San Diego-raised politician who came to statewide prominence as a legislator and then unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Los Angeles — suggested Bonin treated his son like a fashion accessory, a handbag.

Herrera wasn't heard using any racist remarks. He did say his group’s support for a leader to take over the seat for a traditionally Black district should be someone who would be an ally on Latino interests.

In announcing her resignation Wednesday, Martinez listed some of the council's accomplishments: launching the country's largest renter's relief program, creating protections for tenants and fighting human trafficking.

Martinez apologized to her staff, saying: "I'm sorry that we're ending it this way. This is not a reflection on you."

She also apologized to her daughter.

"I know I have fallen short recently of the expectations we have for our family. I vow to you that I will strive to be a better woman to make you proud."

Since the Los Angeles Times first reported the audio recording Sunday, the controversy has grown into a national story. The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden believes everyone involved should resign.

And California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday that his office was launching an investigation into the meeting where the audio was recorded, out of concern that laws tied to voting rights and transparency were broken.

At a raucous City Council meeting Tuesday, an outraged crowd demanded the immediate resignations of Martinez, de León and Cedillo.

Martinez ended her statement Wednesday by saying she hoped she was an inspiration to the children of the community.

"And last, to all little Latina girls across this city — I hope I’ve inspired you to dream beyond that which you can see. While I take the time to look inwards and reflect, I ask that you give me space and privacy."