Silver Lake council votes to censure board member for controversial Facebook comments [updated]

Karen Speitel (left) at Silver Lake council meeting | Cecilia Padilla-Brill

Karen Speitel (left) at Silver Lake council meeting | Cecilia Padilla-Brill


SILVER LAKE — During a tense meeting that some compared to a “public flogging,” the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council on Wednesday voted in favor of censuring a council member for posting what many viewed as racist and offensive comments on Facebook.

Updated @ 10:47 p.m:  CBS2 reports that Silver Lake council member Karen Speitel has resigned over her Facebook comments.

Those in favor of censure contend that Karen Speitel, a Pilates instructor who serves on the council’s community liaison committee, violated the council’s code of conduct and posted racist remarks in an exchange with other commenters on NBC-LA’s Facebook page.  Speitel’s comments on illegal immigration and people of Mexican descent were in response to a story about a tunnel that was found under the United States-Mexican border.

“I was shocked that a member of the community, a member of this board, would denigrate a race of people in this way,” said board member Seamus Garrity, who motioned for the censure. “While a person has free speech, I think that you have to call into question their judgment when they are going to be voting on things that affect the community at large, and they have a skewed opinion of a large percentage of that community. I am shocked that person is even here.”

Speitel, who attended the meeting, defended her comments. She said that she was “not a racist” and that her comments were not racist in nature, although she did conceded that she “did a terrible job of making her point.” Speitel also said that she is “exactly the type of person that you want representing you on this board.”

A screenshot of one of Speitel's Facebook comments that was submitted to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council

A screenshot of one of Speitel’s Facebook comments that was submitted to the Silver Lake council

The council learned about Speitel’s Facebook activity after receiving several emails from the community and fellow SLNC members who complained that Speitel’s remarks were offensive, racist and violated the council’s code of conduct. The emails contained screenshots of Speitel’s comments made during exchanges with other Facebook users. Some emails requested Speitel’s removal from the SLNC.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, 15 council members voted to censure Speitel while four members abstained. The censure, which in this case serves as an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism, is under review by the executive committee and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Speitel’s voting and additional SLNC privileges remain intact.

SLNC board members in favor of the censure described Speitel’s Facebook comments as “irresponsible,” “unkind” and “reprehensible” and that her views were in conflict with her role as an elected official who represents a large Latino population. Christine Kantner, SLNC’s region 5 representative, and Anne-Marie Johnson, at-large representative and co-chair of governmental affairs committee, both directly asked Speitel to resign. Speitel has said she has no intention of stepping down.

Speitel’s supporters, however, claimed that her comments were protected by her First Amendment rights, albeit egregious, and said that Wednesday night’s SLNC meeting was a “public flogging.”

“I’m also frustrated by the fact that … as a community it’s always this need, when people make mistakes, that there has to be this public flogging,” said board member Matthew Desario. “One of the things that I like in people in my close community is that they give me an opportunity to say I’m sorry, to prove myself, they don’t judge me on my one comment.”

Cecilia Padilla Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999

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  1. Disgusting. As an elected official, she should resign. She should be flogged. She is a public official representing residents of Mexican descent!

    Continues the SLNC’s further slide to irrelevance.

  2. Keep those tunnels out of Silver Lake. Mexicans are a mix of peoples and races, no a race by itself.

    • Italians , French and Spanierds are a mix of african, middle east, Mediterranean, European tribes for thousands of years, what are you trying to say?

  3. Even though the SLNC is a volunteer position, it is an elected position. Elected officials should be held to a certain level of conduct. Ms. Speitel certainly does not live up to this level. She should resign.

  4. Why is there no quote of her controversial comment? If anyone has it, please post it.

  5. glassellparkgringo

    this is kind of hilarious

  6. dorit dowler-guerrero

    the remarks, no matter how stupid and wrong, are not a reason to ask her to leave the board unless Karen stated she was on the SLNC or reps the SLNC when she made the remarks,.

    • I disagree with this.

      I think we can agree that if a regular city politician, such as a council member, made remarks as described here (i.e., blanket condemnation of an ethnic group), they would be asked to resign. If that group were powerful enough, and if what they said was bad enough, they would be, in effect, forced to resign. (I.e., it would be clear that they had no legitimacy in that position.) This would be true whether or not they identified themselves as council members.

      As we all know, the NC is pretty far down the scale from the council. But let’s face it, it is still is a public body, and the position is an elected one (she’s Region 2 rep.). Her role in that position is to represent the residents. It’s delusional to believe you can make comments like these and continue to represent residents. Once you voluntarily enter the realm of politics, you can’t just pop off like this.

      The concept of “free speech” has nothing to do with censure. She is certainly free to speak this way, but there are political consequences for doing so.

  7. So what did she actually say? Hard to tell if she was being offensive (or if the PC police are being a bit hyperbolic) without some context?

  8. I was at the meeting and felt like a high-schooler. All the members knew about the postings but went out of their way to not read them directly, and to not reference them directly. It was like all the cool kids talking about some insider secret. One member did read a brief excerpt — enough to know that Karen expressed an active dislike of Mexicans, ands strong options that Mexicans are not good people. Tough to see her as a representative of an area as diverse as Silverlake, given her expressed belief in sweeping stereotypical generalizations (which she defended).

    Her private speech is of course protected, but as an elected official the public has the right to form opinions about her based on her statements, especially if those statements are public. Think Mitt Romney’s “49% are takers” speech — he may not have meant for the little folk to hear it, but once he said it he could hardly argue that it was unfair to judge him based on his first amendment rights. His issue was not too many cameras, but egregiously offensive speech. Karen’s issue is not her right to post on Facebook, but rather ignorant bigotry.

    She defended herself by saying “Mexican is not a race” which I guess means it is ok to denigrate Mexicans and make sweeping generalizations based on national identity? Her logic was so childlike it was acutely embarrassing to listen to.

    The SNC should publish all the comments, and if this comes up again at the next meeting they should read them into the minutes. It is silly to pretend that not doing so is protecting the sensitive ears of their constituents from ugly opinions..

  9. Only a “Mexican” is qualified to judge whether Ms. Speitel’s comments were offensive, which will prevent Speitel’s presumably bigoted remarks from being rationalized to the point of “normal” by her apologists. What is interesting is that some posters who are the first to declare “reverse racism” when anybody dares denounce drunk hipsters or over-priced goods and services are the one’s most keen to disparage the credibility of the “PC Police” who they insist are too sensitive to good old traditional American racism, bigotry, and discrimination.

    Ultimately, nobody who is willing to rationalize or defend bigoted comments is qualified to represent or speak for the very people she disdainfully disparages. That’s just common sense. Of course, common sense is in increasingly limited supply nowadays. As evidenced by those citing red herrings like whether “Mexican” is a race or not(?). What does one have to do with the other? What is clear is that Mexicans are viewed and frequently treated as a “class apart” regardless of racial classification. Ms. Speitel appears to be an example of just that type of pedestrian bigotry and if that’s the case, she is obviously not welcome in a city like L.A. where those distinctions are becoming less relevant with each passing year, i.e., “a mix of peoples and races” and, not any single race by itself.

    • I haven’t heard anyone here defend anything. You say “defend bigoted comments” nobody can defend anything without the whole story. That’s the point. The fact that you would condemn someone without all the facts is just as bad as racist remarks. The only difference I am commenting on your actual words rather than hearsay.

      • Just read Speitel’s comments and they were at least as bad (and unoriginal) as reported. What distinguishes them as conspicuous examples of petty bigotry is the complete detachment from reality. She claims to have lived “in LA a loooong time and the destruction I see all over is from Mexicans.” The reality is that the city is now 50% “Mexican” and has never been safer or cleaner. ESPECIALLY Silverlake. She now claims that she didn’t mean the comments but it’s obvious that she didn’t make them up on the fly. In fact, she didn’t make them up at all. It’s your standard junkyard variety of petty bigotry that many people harbor but deny until they finally expose themselves in a candid and unsuspecting moment. This is similar to all of the recent evidence documenting police brutality. People simply refused to believe that it was happening but are now compelled to just STFU about the issue. Not unlike Speitel and her apologists who would like to chalk this up to a momentary lapse of reason. Wrong. You can google Speitel and find similar comments of hers dating back to 2014.

        She’s a Liar who got caught wallowing in a swamp of bigotry. Good riddance.

        • Her comments were crazy she needs to go. My point was that you can’t condem someone without hearing the facts. You basically condemned her without presenting actual evidence and that’s just as bad as what she said imo

        • Martin Arredondo

          She’s a scumbag just like you.! You both spout off xenophobic garbage. One could only hope Westside Dos runs for city council so we can watch you tumble just like her.

        • Martin Arredondo

          The city is now safer and cleaner ? Lol. compared to when? The 90s ?Now we know your brain has been destroyed by smoking too many p- dogs. We’re still waiting for your prediction that highland park is going to be the next ferguson.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to read this and to follow up. The censure motion which passed the SLNC GB last night by a 3/4 majority (15 yes, 4 abstentions) also included a request to enter into the notes/minutes copies of the comments made on social media which were emailed to the full Board in the past week, and thus were already part of public record. These comments/emails are considered correspondence, and would have already been posted on the correspondence section of the SLNC website in advance if the Secretary had not been ill in the past week as had not been able to post them. Thanks again for your concern. http://www.silverlakenc.org

  11. So in order to be a racist you have to specifically name a race? So anyone can talk about Mexicans in a derogatory manner and not be a racist? Really! And only Mexicans can say the remarks are offensive? What! Other people cannot be offended and recognize an offensive comment if it is not directed towards their specific race? Uh yeah… Anyway I’m not an anthropologist but I do agree with the comment below in quotes…Source Yahoo Answers furthermore I invite you to think about what is your race? Does it matter as we are all 99.99% the same. And If I were to comment and say “all white people are lazy and don’t know how to work” is that a racist comment? In the mind of some they would have to say no because WHITE is not a race! is this the logic that the council member is using as a defense….???

    “Best Answer: In traditional anthropological studies there are actually 5 races.
    These are
    1) Mongoloid (Asian and American Indian)
    2) Caucasoid (European)
    3) Australoid (Australian and oceanic)
    4) Negroid (east African black)
    5) Capoid (south African black)

    The remaining peoples are mixtures or “mongrels” of the different races above. This theory was originally proposed by Ashley Montague and has been disputed for years, but has still withstood the test of time to a large extent. The biggest problem with this theory is that all races share 99.99+% of the same genetic materials which means that further division of race is largely subjective, and that the original 5 races were also probably just subjective descriptions as well. The above theory has been used by people in the past to support racism as well as to refute it. All in all the preponderance of evidence suggests that race is for now a subjective term. Furthermore, until DNA technology becomes even better, then there can be no better answer than Dr. Montague’s, but that in time we will probably find more detailed versions. Apparently none of the other people answering this question have ever been to college much less have degrees in anthropology, biology and medicine!!!”

    • Well said John. I have always been of the opinion that what is usually referred to as racism, is inaccurate, and is actually better qualified as culturalism. And this is why a non-white person who is 3rd generation, for example, is treated no differently than a person of English or German decent. All are American, with American sensibilities and treated as such. We are the most diverse city in the history of the world, and this “racism” word is way over applied and often used lazily. My kids go to school in L.A. with a penumbra of other kids of different racial backgrounds. No one cares about this at all. I don’t, my kids don’t, and their parents don’t. I can’t name one person who cares about this.

      That being said, yes racism does exist to some, very small, extent, and Ms. Speitel’s remarks need to be judged, if and when the remarks are ever published.

    • Her remarks were specifically directed at a specific group of Angelenos. If there is any doubt that they were offensive or not, that group would be the one to cast the deciding vote. What is so unreasonable about that? It’s common sense.

      • My only comment to this is: legal immigrants have to go through a lot of hoops in order to be able to establish here; it is NOT fair to legals for illegal (unauthorized) immigrants to have the amount of protection they currently have; their actions are not worth praise, not because of their origins but because of their disrespect for an American law.

        I can’t understand how so many people come here illegally, don’t bother to learn English, impose their culture onto everyone else (it’s OK to have their culture, in their private homes), constantly disrespect American law (by entering the country without authorization, to stay here longer than they’re allowed, to drive without a license, etc) and are simply allowed to stay; while other immigrants who seek legal ways to come to America (maybe because of work), contribute to the economy with their skills and knowledge, abide by this country’s law, learn English, adopt the American customs and embrace American culture are kicked in the bottom after a while without further options to stay if they really want to.

        NO for illegals and NO for racism. Please blame the action of individuals, not their ethnicity.

        • Modern Mexicans are the direct descendants of this continent’s original native inhabitants AND original european settlers. We are only “immigrants” according to cooked legal books and artificial borders imposed at gunpoint. In some shape or form, Otherwise, Mexicans didn’t cross an ocean to arrive here. Mexicans have ALWAYS been here. It’s about time you’re informed that every time you refer to any Mexican as “illegal” you disrespect our culture, heritage, and history and only those who give respect, get respect. Suit yourself but it should be obvious by now that Mexicans — regardless of “legal” status — don’t feel illegal on land that we’ve been taught to believe is home and nothing you do or say can erase that deep sense of belonging. You go back to wherever you came from that you had to wait in line, complete forms, and pay fees to get here. This land is and will always be the home of Mexicans.

          • @properdos

            The Mexicans stole and sold the Chumash land right out from under them after the Spaniards left.

            This land was the home of the Chumash and the Tonga first.


          • Martin Arredondo

            What percentage of Mexicans living in California today are of Californio decent?

          • Martin Arredondo

            go to the Chumash reservation in San Ynez and say this is Mexican land and see what happens.

          • “What percentage of Mexicans living in California today are of Californio decent?” Californios are descendants of Mexicans you numb-skull aka ArreteTonto. In fact, it was Californios who started the tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo, which is no more than an historical footnote in actual Mexico.

          • Martin Arredondo

            Californios are of Mexican decent(all 27 years) but modern day Mexicans aren’t of Californio
            descent. California was once part of Spain. Does that mean that Mexicans can claim Spain as their land to?

          • Martin Arredondo

            Westside Dos Mayan empire stretched from Mexico to Central America. So with your retarded logic I guess Guatamalens,Salvadorians and Belizians can claim Mexico as their land.

          • Martin Arredondo

            I also left out Salvadorians and Hondurians

          • Orale! Awesomely said. I’m of Mexican indigenous desent, I found these words heinous! Glad she resigned, now on to boycott 5he BUSINESS!

          • @martinarredondo

            go to the Chumash reservation in San Ynez and say this is Mexican land and see what happens.”

            This is post Spain:
            “Mexican authorities failed to live up to their promises of distributing the remaining land among the surviving Chumash, causing further decline in the Chumash population.”

        • Btw,, it’s not true that legal immigrants had to hop through difficult hoops to establish themselves here. At the turn of the last century, as long as they didn’t have some seriously contagious disease or serious criminal record (if anyone was even keeping track in those days, in those countries) European immigrants wee deloused, handed a green card, and as long as they didn’t get into any trouble for five years, were on the path to legal citizenship and they weren’t even native depending on your definition of what that means. Anyway, I’ve noticed that hardcore anti “illegals”won’t even consider the virtually automatic path to citizenship that their immigrant ancestors were provided with.

          • “Btw,, it’s not true that legal immigrants had to hop through difficult hoops to establish themselves here.”

            Your ignorance is astounding. I’ve helped friends get their green cards and that alone requires a lawyer and about 10 thousand bucks as well as plenty of hoops to jump through. We’re not even talking citizenship here.

          • He said “historically”it’s not true that most immigrants had to jump through hoops. Now all the ancestors of those dirty immigrants don’t want this generation of dirty immigrants to have the same chance of which they are the beneficiary.

          • He didn’t say historically.

            He said: “Btw,, it’s not true that legal immigrants had to hop through difficult hoops to establish themselves here. ”

            He then went on to make sweeping generalizations.
            He’s shown himself over and over again on this board to be an ignorant bigot.

            Now for the council member, what she wrote was inappropriate and I’m glad she’s being shown the door.

          • Ok he said at the turn of the century… In other words “historically” his point being that most citizens have benefited from a much easier path to citizenship via not so distant ancestors than they would afford others,

        • Legal immigrants do not have to go through a lot of hoops. American citizenship can be bought for One Million Dollars (said in my Dr. Evil voice).

  12. Oh yea it’s bad lol. I don’t know why but it still blows my mind that someone thinks this way much less says it.

  13. She resigned last night — and her apology is for “remarks I made that are now being deemed as racially insensitive.” She doe snot apologize for the content – merely the reception.

    She also says she thought it was a private bigoted rant, and thus she let lose.

    Still does not get it.

    Her apology is here:

  14. She resigned last night, and apologized for “comments that are now being deemed racist.”

    Still does not get it. It is not the reception of the comments that caused the issue, but the comments themselves!

    Her apology is here:


  15. I love it when hilariously racist facebook posts have repercussions. Especially when it’s the older crowd who don’t understand what is public/private.

  16. The original story in the LA times involved drug smugglers using the tunnel to smuggle drugs, not anything else. This elected official twisted the context of this story to sound some type of alarm over illegal immigration. Get over yourself Miss elected official. LA is a beautiful, grimy, and diverse place and to say that its a ” disaster ” just reeks of contempt for some of the people she representsl. Gtf out of here!

  17. Why is she wearing that hideous hat while sitting on the board of a formal meeting?
    Bad form!

  18. Karen needs to sue for SLAPP (GOOGLE IT).

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