LOS ANGELES - Embattled L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León does not plan to resign from his position despite widespread calls to step down, he said in television interviews.
De León said that he will not step down over his involvement in the City Hall racism scandal despite calls for his resignation from President Joe Biden to nearly all of his colleagues.
"I've always been up against many, many challenges," de León said in one interview. "And obviously, this is the biggest one I've ever been confronted with in my life."
The councilman said the city needs to heal and that he "wants to be part of that."
The October 2021 conversation between de León and fellow council members Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo and Ron Herrera, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, included racist comments and discussions over favorable redistricting, and led to Martinez resigning her council presidency and later her council seat last week.
"I'm not going to mince words," de León said. "I'm not going to deflect blame. I'm not going to defend the defenseless."
De León and Cedillo have been under mounting pressure to resign since the release of the tape Oct. 9.
De León also sent a letter — obtained by the Los Angeles Times — to newly named Council President Paul Krekorian asking to be excused from attending council meetings "in the coming weeks" so that he can focus on the healing process.
De León said he would be "spending the coming weeks and months personally asking for your forgiveness."
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But Krekorian did not appear to accept de León's attempt to make amends. In a statement, Krekorian said "apologies will not be nearly enough to undo the damage that this city has suffered."
"The only way we can begin to heal as a city is for Mr. de León to take responsibility for his actions, accept the consequences, and step down."
De León, however, said in a Spanish interview, "I will not resign because there's a lot of work ahead. There's a lot of work that we have to face. The crisis that is happening in the district, the infections, the unemployment, the threat to eviction, the humanitarian crisis of the homeless."
He added that he felt "very bad and embarrassed for the hurt, for the wounds that exist today in our communities."
"I'm very sorry. I'm sorry and for that I ask for apologies from my people, to my community, for the pain that my hurtful words caused from that day a year ago."
Protesters have been staging a camp-out since Sunday morning in front of de León's home in Eagle Rock, pledging to remain until he resigns.
Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez, who beat Cedillo in the June primary and is set to join the council in December at the latest, responded to the news with a #recall hashtag on Twitter.
"There is a lot do work to be done, but you do not have the credibility to move it forward," Hernandez said on Twitter. "Your legacy will be your failure to take accountability for your harm."
The councilman said he called Councilman Mike Bonin — whose 2-year- old Black son was the target of a racial slur by Martinez — to apologize and left a voice mail. He planned to apologize at last Tuesday's council meeting, but said it was difficult because protesters forced him to leave the meeting.
Neither he nor Cedillo have attended a meeting since.
Melina Abdullah, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, said De León used to be a "student and friend" of hers.
"I've called him several times and said, ‘Kevin, we just need you to be accountable,’" she said.
Abdullah said he took her "Voting campaigns and elections" class at Scripps College. She expressed her disappointment at his announcement to not resign at this time, and plans to continue to protest.
"We're not going anywhere, so I think he thinks him saying he's not resigning is gonna make us go home," said Abdullah. "That just makes us double down. That just makes us ratchet it up and say 'We're gonna make it extremely uncomfortable for you to walk in this city.'"
Darren Hall, one of De León's neighbors, also spoke to Fox 11.
"I've seen him (De León) in the neighborhood a couple of times and spoken to him at events. I'm very disappointed that he has come out and said he will not resign. He claims that he's doing that because he says the district deserves representation, and he's right. We do deserve representation, and he can't represent us under these circumstances," Hall said. "If we really deserve representation, and he really believes that, he would go. I just think it reflects that he's kind of out of touch with the reality on the ground."
De León said that when he compared Bonin's handling of his son at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade to "when Nury brings her little yard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag," he was making a comment directed at Martinez's "penchant for having luxury accessories" and not at Bonin's family.
But Bonin said following de León's interviews that de León "cannot be a part of the healing as long as he refuses to resign." In a statement, Bonin called de León's comments "gaslighting of the highest order."
"He says he should have 'intervened,' as if he were a mere bystander to a racist conversation in which he played a central and ignominious role," Bonin continued.
Bonin added that "no matter what he says today," de León is "unfit for office in this city."
When asked whether his decision to not step down was selfish, de León said that it wasn't about him, and pivoted to the needs of District 14.
De León, 55, has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor this year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly
"I failed to step up and shut down a conversation," de León said. "The words that were incendiary, words that were painfully hurtful. And I didn't do that. And I'm sorry to the city of L.A. for not stepping up, and being a leader that they expect me to be."