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‘Completely lost': Nury Martinez reflects 1 year after racist tape leak

A year ago, the then-president of the Los Angeles City Council, Nury Martinez, resigned her post amid a scandal in which a leaked recording showed her and other Latino leaders engaging in a racist conversation.

Martinez hadn’t spoken in front of cameras – until now.

The recording was made in secret and published by the Los Angeles Times in 2022. The recording’s origins are under investigation. It was made during a 2021 conversation between fellow council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo – who lost his 2022 reelection bid months before the leak – and Ron Herrera, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The conversation included comments that left many offended and infuriated. Now, a year after the leak that forced Martinez to resign, the ex-council member has decided to break her silence and speak with NBC4 and Telemundo 52.

In the leaked audio recording, Martinez mocked Indigenous Mexican immigrants of Oaxacan descent living in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, calling them “short, dark people.” “I don’t know where these people are from. I don’t know what village they came [from], how they got here. … Tan feos [they’re ugly],” she said.

She called those comments a “horrible joke.”

In the recording, Martinez also used the word “changuito,” which translates to “little monkey,” to refer to the Black son of former Councilman Mike Bonin.

“I don’t remember exactly, I even had to hear the audio back … of what I was talking about,” Martinez said. “I used language, I expressed myself in a way that was really shameful for me. I made a joke in an environment where I felt as if that’s how things were going on. In reality, I don’t have the words to express how badly I feel for having said that. It wasn’t my intent to make anyone feel bad. And there were comments that were very hurtful to the Black community and especially toward a Black child, the son of a colleague.”

But, she argued, her intent was not racist.

“In my home, we used that word a lot,” Martinez said. “My mother, when we were little and we played, told us, ‘You look like a little monkey.’ So, for me, using the word never meant anything racist against Black people. Clearly, I now understand how it was perceived. Clearly, I understand and take complete responsibility for that, but my intention wasn’t that.”

However, people still wonder whether Martinez is racist.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “My body of work shows completely the contrary. I’ve done nothing but empower women and women of color.”

Martinez said she feels scared following the events, saying she’s received death threats against herself and her family. As for her future following the political scandal, she said it presented a moment for reflection and regret.

“I live with so much shame every day, and so much guilt, especially around the little boy,” Martinez said, referring to Bonin’s son. “But I think my political differences with his father on the council, and the friction over the last two years that I was council president and guiding the city through COVID, I walked into that room so frustrated and so angry that I took it out on a little boy, and I should have known better.”

The former councilwoman said she’s working on forgiving herself and, though she is unsure whether the public is ready to welcome her back yet, wants to be “part of the solution” going forward.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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