As Angelenos countdown to the creepiest night of the year, many U.S. news sources continue their creep to the right.

The LAist is one of these outlets.

This regional news source, which claims to be “full of the values that drive LA,” recently promoted a reactionary-studded debate at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel moderated by Bari Weiss, the self-canceled New York Times opinion editor and columnist who now publishes an “anti-Woke” Substack named Free Press. LAist staff condemned management’s decision to advertise the Sept. 13 event, protesting with a public statement that argued Weiss’s Free Press was at odds with their employer’s commitment to “fact-based journalism.” They further characterized Weiss’s Substack as a source of “misinformation about transgender youth” and “harmful anti-trans rhetoric.”

On Sept. 20, the LAist caused another stir when it announced the launch of a four-part podcast, “Imperfect Paradise,” advertised as a “deep dive into the LA City Council Tape Scandal” that features “an exclusive interview with former LA City Council President Nury Martinez.” The unsmiling photo of Martinez that accompanies the announcement on the LAist’s website has a strangely religious quality to it. Add an aura and the portrait could be that of a martyred saint on a prayer card.

Martinez is neither martyr nor saint. She’s a conniving pol and a creep who was justly ousted because of her racism, xenophobia and classism.

But Martinez is neither martyr nor saint. She’s a conniving pol and a creep who was justly ousted because of her racism, xenophobia and classism. On Oct. 9, 2022, an audio recording of a backroom dealmaking session that happened in 2021 was leaked to the public. It captured Martinez insulting and mocking Black people, Indigenous migrants, children, adoptees, Jews, Armenians and tenants. 

The crude us-versus-them distinctions reflected the central message of Carl Schmitt, the Nazi legal theorist, who wrote that the “political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” The tape, which lasts more than an hour, painfully inventories Martinez’s political friends and enemies. In dismissing the progressive district attorney George Gascón, Martinez says, “Fuck that guy…He’s with the Blacks.” Referring to Jews as “Judíos,” Martinez huffs, “they cut their deal with South LA.”

While much has been made of Martinez’s use of slurs, her involvement in gerrymandering schemes to protect and bolster Latino political interests underscores her willingness to participate in systemic racism and undermine democracy. That she is Latina in no way excuses her behavior. 

Martinez resigned under pressure — including calls from the White House to step down — but her departure was not accompanied by an apology. Instead, the disgraced politician released an egocentric statement that began by emphasizing her “broken heart.” She then pivoted to extolling her many civic accomplishments. The most audacious part of Martinez’s resignation letter appears at the end, where she writes, “And last, to all the little Latina girls across this city — I hope I’ve inspired you to dream beyond that which you can see.”

When I first read that line, I thought, “Bitch, what?”

I don’t have children; I have a cat. But if I had a daughter, I would be direct in my warning to her: Don’t you dare draw inspiration from fashy women like Nury Martinez. It doesn’t matter if they look like you or sound like you. Fascism is deadly and we don’t play with it. In this household, we are anti-fascists. 

By handing her the microphone, reporters give a dangerous person the opportunity to rehabilitate her image and escape the consequences of her actions.

After Martinez resigned, I listened to other Latinas speculate about her future, about what she might do with her career now that the world knows who she really is. Some predicted that she might re-brand herself as a right-wing Latina and join the GOP. She already wears an assault rifle lapel pin to work, and the year she was outed as bigot, a record 43 Republican Latina candidates ran for House seats. Among them was Anna Paulina Luna, the first Mexican-American elected to represent Florida in the House of Representatives. 

Luna is a purveyor of lies, large and small. She has claimed that her father, George Mayerhofer, was a convicted felon who spent time incarcerated in various California jails and prisons. But when The Washington Post investigated Luna’s statements, reporters found no records that corroborated her stories. When the Post’s reporters looked into Luna’s claim that she had survived a “home invasion,” they found that the representative’s version of events contradicted the recollections of her former roommate. Luna’s strangest claim is a religious one: that her father was a practicing Jew. Luna’s extended family insists that George Mayerhofer was the Catholic son of a Nazi soldier, Heinrich Mayerhofer. Given Luna’s genealogy, it seems that the manzana hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

Federico Finchelstein, a historian of fascism, has noted that while all politicians lie, fascists do so on an epic scale. Night becomes day. The moon becomes the sun. Liars tell the truth. Nury Martinez becomes a misunderstood martyr. By handing her the microphone, reporters give a dangerous person the opportunity to rehabilitate her image and escape the consequences of her actions. When an audiotape revealed that right-wing activist Richard Spencer was indeed a white supremacist and neo-Nazi, the media turned from him, not toward him. Spencer had already shown us who he was. To put a microphone in front of him would have presented him the opportunity to spread more propaganda, misinformation and lies. Nury Martinez deserves no such gift.  

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