Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León says the only way he will step down from office is if he is forced to in a recall election from the voters in his council district.
“My duty is to represent my constituents,” he told NBC4 on Sunday. “They are the ones who elected me. If they are the ones who say that I need to leave, then I will respect that decision by them.”
De León has been under pressure from fellow Democrats including Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla and President Joe Biden to resign from office following the release of racist comments in a secret meeting he attended at the LA County Federation of Labor.
During the taped meeting then Council President Nury Martinez made disparaging comments about fellow council member Mike Bonin. Martinez alluded to Bonin, who is white, as using his African American son like a fashion “accessory.” De León appeared to compare the boy to a “Louis Vuitton handbag.”
De León told NBC 4’s Conan Nolan on the station’s “News Conference” program, that he regretted making what he said was a “flippant remark” and that he was actually referring to Martinez’ taste in high end purses.
Martinez also referred to Bonin’s son as a “changuito” or “little monkey.” Some in the Latino community say the word is commonly used in immigrant households to describe hyperactive children.
When asked de León said his mother used it “many times” when he was a child when he “bounced off the walls.” He nevertheless condemned Martinez for using the word.
De León was repeatedly pressed on his own comments from the tape, including the obscenity he used to describe what he believed was Bonin’s lack of concern for the city’s Latino population. He referred to Bonin as the council’s “fourth Black member.”
De León said he should have used “different words” but that the remarks reflected resentment toward the lack of Latino representation in city government – an issue he believes will only worsen if he resigns.
The former leader of the California State Senator who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018, repeatedly said he needed to stay on the council to provide a “voice” for working class Latinos.
Newly elected Council President Paul Krekorian has called such statements the “height of arrogance” in that it suggests no-one else in de Leon’s district of 250,000 residents can provide able representation on the city’s legislative body.
“He may think that that’s not fair to him, but that’s not relevant right now,” Krekorian said later on the program. “The important thing is beginning the healing process that Los Angeles needs and to allow the city council to do its work, and that requires his resignation from office.”