LOS ANGELES (AP) — Embattled Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de Leon told Univision on Wednesday he will not resign amid an uproar over a leaked tape that revealed him participating in a meeting in which Latino officials made crude, racist remarks and plotted to expand their political power.
The scandal already has led to the resignation of former City Council President Nury Martinez and calls from President Joe Biden for those involved to step down.
De Leon told the Spanish-language station that he is “so sorry” and wants to continue working on homelessness and other problems in his district.
The racist comments came in a nearly year-old meeting, which also provided an unvarnished look into the city’s racial rivalries. Those involved in the private meeting spent much of the time discussing how to safeguard Latino political power during the redrawing of council district boundaries.
The California Legislative Black Caucus said the recording “reveals an appalling effort to decentralize Black voices during the critical redistricting process.”
Martinez stepped down last week, but de Leon and Councilmember Gil Cedillo have so far resisted widespread calls for their resignations.
The Los Angeles City Council installed a new president Tuesday after a chanting crowd of protesters called for halting the vote until de Leon and Cedillo resign for their part in the 2021 meeting.
The City Council selected Paul Krekorian to lead the chamber.
A powerful labor leader who also attended the 2021 private meeting, Ron Herrera, also resigned.
“I will not resign because there is a lot of work ahead,” de Leon said in the interview, referring to unemployment, fallout from the continuing pandemic and the threat of evictions for renters in a city with soaring housing prices.
“I feel very bad, I feel very sorry for the damage, for the wounds that exist today in our communities,” he said.
The remarks were his first since the White House called for him to resign. He has not appeared at recent meetings, and the Council stripped him and Cedillo of much of their power as they seek to increase pressure on them to resign.
The interview was conducted by Leon Krauze, a national anchorman for Univision. His nightly news for KMEX Univision 34 is one of the most-watched broadcast stations in Los Angeles.
“I ask for forgiveness from all my people, my community for the damage that those painful words caused on that day,” he said.