Councilman De León, 55, has embarked on a media tour to defend himself after several days of silence. On Tuesday, October 11, he tried to take the microphone at the first public session of the Council to apologize for his words, but a large group of protesters demanding his resignation forced him to withdraw from City Hall. “I am not going to defend the indefensible… I apologize to the people, to my colleagues, to Mike Bonin’s family, to my family, to all those who have supported me,” the mayor said in another talk, in English, with the local channel of the CBS network.
Before the journalist León Krauze, De León acknowledged the damage that the conversation has done in Los Angeles, a city in perpetual racial tension between whites, blacks and Hispanics. “I feel very bad, very sorry for the damage, for the wounds that exist in our communities,” said the politician, who insisted that he will remain in the position he has held since October 2020 to work on the crisis in his district. , of Latino majority: “the infections, the unemployment, the threats of eviction, the humanitarian crisis of the homeless”.
Councilwoman Martinez, the first Latina to preside over the Council, has been the main affected by the scandal. She first left the position due to the rejection caused by her statements, published by the Los Angeles Times. Days later, she presented her resignation to the City Council, with the episode becoming a national case.
The conversation, recorded in October 2021, took place behind closed doors. It features the three Latino mayors of Los Angeles, who wield great power in a city where nearly 50% of the population identifies as Latino. Politicians discuss how they can expand their influence and lambast those who pose any threat to them, regardless of whether they are African-American, Jewish or Armenian. It is Martinez who makes the largest number of reprehensible comments, but he does so in the face of the silence of the interlocutors. When the mayor criticizes Mike Bonin’s son, De León says the councilman wears him like a Louis Vuitton bag. De León assured in the interviews that she tried to apologize for her words directly with Bonin on several occasions, but that he never picked up the phone. This, instead, insisted this Wednesday that De León must leave the City Hall. The rest of the councilors have also voted to expel De León and Cedillo from the commissions of which they were part.
“I shouldn’t have made that flippant comment,” De León told CBS. “I failed by not having intervened in the conversation, against incendiary words and very hurtful comments. I failed and I apologize to Los Angeles for not being the leader I should have been,” he added. The activist-turned-politician, of Guatemalan roots and raised on the border of Tijuana and San Diego, says he is committed to repairing the relationships in the community that he damaged with his comments.
De León is a survivor of politics. He gained national notoriety as a senator on Capitol Hill in Sacramento, where he vowed to fight Donald Trump’s xenophobic policies and make the state a sanctuary. After that, he fought to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic institution in Washington, a race he lost by nearly a million votes. This 2022 he tried to be a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, but ended up declining in favor of Karen Bass, a Democratic congresswoman.
His critics consider this to be his last power play. The political groups that help him stay in office are made up of various immigrant organizations, who recognize both him and Cedillo (who promoted initiatives for adult education and a driver’s license for immigrants), the legislation that have helped to approve in favor of these communities. These associations believe that the departure of these politicians would mean decapitating the influence that Latin American immigrant federations have in the city.