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De León denies being racist


As noted in the Oct. 13 edition of OW, Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo, and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera were caught on tape making racially explicit remarks about Black people and Oaxacans. Amid the conversation, they also talked about fellow councilmember Mike Bonin and his adopted son, who is Black.

Since the tape’s release, the remaining council members voted 12-0 to censure Cedillo and de León, as well as former Councilmember Martinez. This is the first time council members have voted to censure one of their own. This censure, while having no legal weight, still puts pressure on Cedillo and de León to resign from their positions.

According to the city council rules, both council members can make an opening and closing statement, call witnesses on their behalf, and question their accusers. But this has not stopped de León, who has been on an “apology tour,” of sorts. Tuesday he stopped by KBLA and spoke with Tavis Smiley to discuss the tape and why he won’t resign from the council.

“I have a 20-plus year history of a shared struggle with our (Black and Brown) communities and a body of work that has improved living and human conditions of people regardless of skin color, ethnicity, and legal status,” de León said, after Smiley asked why it was a good idea for Martinez to resign but not for him to do the same.

De León referenced the content of the leaked audio as a “raw, bare-knuckles” political meeting and is regretful of making the flippant remarks. During the interview, the councilmember lost his train of thought for a moment but ended his statement about his words during the tape: “I am not the person people are painting me out to be, it’s not who I am, It’s not my moral compass, and it’s not in my heart.”

Smiley asked de León about the word flippant, why he has used it countless times during interviews, and if he feels that way about the situation.

“When I use the words flippantly, I was using the comment I made about Martinez handbags,” de León said. Smiley pointed to the fact that the comments referenced Bonin’s Black child and questioned de León on whether flippant was the appropriate word to use. De León, admitted that it was not appropriate.

Smiley noted that de León has done several interviews, but this was the first which addressed the Black community and South Central residents. He asked why they are so far from the list.

“As a human with flaws, it hurt the most to get to the community that I hurt the most because of my embarrassment and sense of shame, so it took a little longer to get here,” de León said.

Later in the interview, Smiley questioned de León on other statements on the tape regarding their saying there are too many Black council members. De León said that it’s not about having too many Black council members but the fact that they are in charge of districts that include predominantly Latino communities.

“I am pro-Latino, but that doesn’t mean I am anti-anybody else,” he said.

Smiley questioned de León on his statement as the tape suggests differently and how everything on the tape points to them being anti-everybody and specifically targeting the Black community.

“It’s not in my heart,” de León said, pointing to his work. De León continues to deny racist allegations and states that his only mission during the leaked conversation was to protect his district. He said that he does not want to resign his

LA City Council seat because he believes that would be an easy way out. He would rather apologize and reconcile with the Black community because racism is not in his heart, and he wants to show that.