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Former president of the L.A. City Council resigns after she made racist comments

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

** The former president of Los Angeles City Council has resigned her seat on the council after mounting pressure to do so. Councilwoman Nury Martinez was captured on a secret recording that came to light over the weekend. In it, she and two other council members are heard making racist remarks about Black people and Indigenous immigrants.

We're joined now by NPR's Adrian Florido in Los Angeles. And Adrian, this councilwoman had been under pressure to resign for three days now. Remind us why that was.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Well, over the weekend, Sacha, the Los Angeles Times reported on a recording that was made of a conversation that the council president had with two of her colleagues on the council and a powerful union leader. In this secret recording that was made a year ago, they were talking about the city redistricting process that was underway at the time and specifically how they wanted to draw the lines of the city election maps to increase political power for themselves and for Latinos. All three of the council members are Latino, and they could be heard on this recording discussing ways to dilute the political power of African Americans in this city.

And the conversation was full of racist language, and most of the racist comments came from Martinez herself. She at one point referred to the Black son of one of her council colleagues as a monkey. She used denigrating and racist language to talk about Indigenous immigrants from Mexico. And this all caused a huge uproar. The city's political leadership has imploded as a result, and the calls for her resignation have grown really loud in the three days since this tape came to light. Even President Biden called for the resignation.

PFEIFFER: What did she say about her decision to resign?

FLORIDO: Well, I was struck in the lengthy statement that she sent out today that she did not at all address the secret recording or the reason for her resignation. She spent much of the statement touting her accomplishments on the city council. Now, to be fair, she did apologize earlier this week when this tape first emerged. But some of the initial responses I'm seeing to her resignation announcement today reflect an anger that she didn't apologize again or addressed her racist comments in any way.

PFEIFFER: What does this resignation mean for the city council and for Los Angeles itself? How significant is it?

FLORIDO: It's hugely significant in a lot of ways. I mean, the jockeying for power on the council started almost as soon as this tape became public over the weekend, and it was clear to a lot of people that Nury Martinez was unlikely to survive this. She resigned the council presidency yesterday, but until today had resisted calls to resign her seat entirely. And so what this means is that there's now going to be a lot of maneuvering on the council for who will become its new leader and who will fill Nury Martinez's vacant seat.

This is also a huge blow to the political order in LA for a lot of reasons. Nury Martinez was the first Latina to lead the city council, and she really represented the ascendance of Latino political influence in Los Angeles. But since this tape emerged, angry, multiracial crowds have filled the council chambers and refused to let the council hold its meetings until she and her two colleagues on the tape resigned. One of the big questions now is whether those two other council members, Kevin de Leon and Gil Cedillo, will also resign.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Adrian Florido in Los Angeles. Adrian, thank you for following this for us.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Sacha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.