CNN anchor Kate Bolduan relentlessly held Los Angeles Councilman Kevin de León’s feet to the fire on Tuesday, asking the embattled Democrat why he wasn’t resigning in the face of his racist remarks about another councilman’s young Black child.
Following a bombshell tape that was leaked in October featuring him and other councilmembers making racist remarks about their colleagues, de León has refused to resign—even as others who participated in that meeting have quit in disgrace.
After avoiding City Council meetings for the past two months, de León finally made a rare public appearance last week—and ended up getting into a physical altercation with an activist as protesters urged de León to resign. Both the councilman and the protester have filed battery complaints against each other, and the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating.
Amid the snowballing controversies and increasing calls for his resignation, de León appeared on CNN on Tuesday morning to insist he’d done a lot of “reflection” following the release of the tape.
“I came on Friday to get back to work,” he declared. “The past two months, I’ve been taking a lot of reflection, working with my constituents as well as having conversations not just with my constituents in the district but with constituents or folks outside of the district with many, in particular, in the African American community.”
Bolduan, meanwhile, noted that the city charter states that a council seat becomes vacant if an officeholder is absent without approval for more than 60 days, wondering if de León merely showed up on Friday just to avoid a fight over his seat.
“No. Because today, for example, we have a council meeting, and I’ll be attending the council meeting today as well,” de León asserted. “Let me be very clear: 90 percent to 95 percent of the work for the city council in Los Angeles has to do with city departments and city heads, and that is what I’ve been exactly doing with me and my staff, who’ve been wonderful during this very difficult time. We’ve received a tremendous amount of support from the community, and that is why I continue to serve.”
The CNN anchor then pointed out that everyone else involved in the racism scandal had either already resigned or was planning to leave over the “mess” they had created.
“Why are you not resigning?” Bolduan asked point blank. “I know you say you still have work to do. But other members, the points that the council members are making still today about this whole thing is that they say that the city cannot heal if you are still there, and one member saying that your continued presence on the council is causing severe and ongoing harm.”
Saying that “people make the decision” in a democracy rather than “folks in the peanut gallery or political pundits,” de León noted that “tens of millions of Americans go to work every single day with folks they don’t like.” He went on to claim that he’s “profoundly sorry” for “not standing up” in the meeting when the racist comments were made, prompting Bolduan to push back.
“It wasn’t just that you didn’t stand up, you also took part in the communication,” she flatly stated. “I mean, in it, you said—you compared the young Black child of a fellow councilman child to being an accessory, like a luxury handbag.”
De León , however, said he wanted to “provide context” to those remarks while bemoaning that the media didn’t realize it was “much more nuanced” than that, leading Bolduan to immediately air the audio of de León comparing the child to a Louis Vuitton bag.
“You have said in subsequent interviews, and you say you’re profoundly sorry, that you failed in leadership and accept responsibility,” Bolduan said after airing the clip. “What exactly was the mistake that you made that you’re apologizing for?”
Claiming he “shouldn’t have said what I said,” de León then asserted that he was actually “inartfully” criticizing Councilwoman Nury Martinez “for her penchant for luxury handbags.” At the same time, he reiterated that he shouldn’t have made the remarks while insisting that he’d apologized to Councilman Mike Bonin and his family.
“Before I let you go, I do want to ask you because you're on tape making fun of a colleague’s young Black child when there is a racist conversation that is occurring,” Bolduan retorted. “That colleague is a fellow Democrat [who] now still considers you, in his words, ‘a vile racist,’ is how he puts it, councilman.”
She continued: “You’ve been absent from the committee since October. The council meetings have been shut down multiple times over this scandal due to committee members [and] community members protesting and the committee not being able to operate the council. And then last week, you got into a physical fight, no matter who started it and I know there is video that has come out to show how serious the altercation did become, but you got into a fight on Friday with an activist. If this was anyone else, would you say that the person I just described is serving their community well?”
Before boasting about his accomplishments as a councilman, de León merely proclaimed: “That is not the person who I am.”