Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León said in a television interview Wednesday night that he “will not resign” from his position amid a public and political backlash from local, state, and federal officials.
De León, 55, was heard in leaked audio recordings published earlier this month revealing offensive or racist comments made during a meeting with fellow city officials behind closed doors in 2021.
In an exclusive interview on Noticiero Univision, de León said that although he “feels very bad” about the “damage” caused by the conversation, he doesn’t plan on vacating his seat, on which he has two years remaining.
“I will not resign because there is a lot of work ahead of me,” de León told the Spanish news outlet.
De León, who has been tightly holding onto his seat in the wake of the Los Angeles Times report exposing corruption and racism within the city’s chambers, pointed to a range of crises in his district, including infections, unemployment, eviction threats, and homelessness.
“There is a lot of work that we have to face,” he said.
In the recordings, de León compared the way his fellow councilmember Mike Bonin, a white gay man, handles his black son to a handbag, and would later refer to Bonin as the council’s “fourth black member.”
His comments were part of a conversation — focused mainly on the once-in-a-decade city redistricting — with former Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, and former Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
L.A. officials met to discuss how the city would redraw council district boundaries over the next ten years — geared toward helping Latino political leaders maintain their power, re-elect Latino members, and protect economic interests.
While Cedillo said he “should have intervened” when his colleagues used “racially divisive” language, de León said he regrets “appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family.”
Martinez, who made the bulk of the insulting comments, and Herrera, have since resigned from their posts.
Acting Los Angeles City Council President Mitch O’Farrell removed Councilmembers de León and Gil Cedillo from committee positions and assignments on Monday.
O’Farrell, who replaced former council president Nury Martinez after she announced her resignation last week, has asked de León and Cedillo to step down. However, amid facing calls to vacate their seats, both have refused to leave. Instead, O’Farrell stripped the city officials of their chairmanships and committee positions that deal with issues such as real estate, development, housing, and homelessness.
“The only recourse is resignation or recall,” O’Farrell told The Los Angeles Times. “I do not see the remaining two members who haven’t resigned coming back to council with any level of credibility whatsoever.”
Los Angeles city officials elected a new president, Paul Krekorian, to lead the chamber Tuesday despite protestors demanding the council holds the vote until de León and Cedillo resign.