Vice Mayor Lana Negrete Gives Extended Interview to Epoch Times’ “California Insider” Videocast

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Last week, Santa Monica Mayor Lana Negrete appeared on “California Insider” (link) a YouTube video show produced by the far-right conspiracy publication the Epoch Times. The episode, “Vice Mayor Explains How Cancel Culture Is Impacting Santa Monica” runs for nearly an hour and is solely an interview of Negrete by Siyamak Khorrami. This is the third California Insider episode focused solely on Santa Monica in the last 14 months, with a fourth episode also taking swipes at the city’s efforts to address homelessness.

“I was told this was a far-right conservative show,” Negrete says to Khorrami at one point,  “I’m just speaking my truth. If people want to take fractions of what I’m saying and make it say something else. Then that’s their problem.”

We’re not going to go into all the red flags just appearing in an Epoch Times show raises. We discussed it before when John Alle appeared on the same show in 2023. If you don’t’ believe us, NBC News also takes a dim view of its editorial take, “Its editorial vision — fueled by a right-wing slant and conspiracy theories —  is on display in recent reports on how Jan. 6 Capitol Hill Security Footage Challenges Key Narratives and Meteorologists, Scientists Explain Why There Is ‘No Climate Emergency.

Negrete’s appearance starts out normal enough, with the city’s second highest elected official lamenting the impact that crime and a lack of coordination alleviating the regional surge in homelessness are having on Santa Monica residents. However, about 20 minutes into the interview, Negrete takes the bait offered by Khorrami and launches a verbal broadside against activists and organizations that she perceives as opposed to her. 

At this rally against the county’s needle distribution program, Negrete is about to lament how personal politics has become in Santa Monica. Click on the image to watch the video from Negrete’s speech.

Negrete, who was appointed to the Council in 2021 to replace Kevin McKeown, was re-elected in a close and hotly contested election in 2022. Two years after her election, she chose use the Epoch Times to air her grievances against Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), Unite Here! Local 11, the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Santa Monica Next (not by name, but clearly references us), and Jason Mastbaum (again, not by name.)

In each story, Negrete casts herself as blameless and in some cases is completely unable to distinguish between policy differences and personal attacks.

First, Negrete seems shocked that Unite Here! Local 11 wanted candidates to agree with their positions on specific issues before making endorsements rather than endorse based on who has been in a labor union at some point in their lives.

“In order to get an endorsement, they want you to subscribe to what you vote for, what you support and what you don’t support,” she said of candidate surveys. “I like to look at issues as they’re presented and vote on what seems right.”

Negrete specifically brought up the ongoing issue between Unite Here! and the Shore Hotel, where the union wanted the hotel to become a union shop before it was allowed to expand. Negrete had previously voted to allow that expansion. She did not get the union’s endorsement and is apparently still mad about this.

From there, Negrete moved on to her complaints against Santa Monicans for Renters Rights. She tells her story of growing up in a rent controlled apartment, notes that despite owning a local business: her parents and herself can only stay in the city because of the city’s strong rules on rent control. So, Negrete saw herself as a shoe-in for SMRR’s endorsement in 2022.

“Not only did they not endorse me…they said I was anti-rent control, Negrete laments. “I’ve never said I don’t support Rent Control.’ This misinformation is what really concerns me.”

Negrete says that her failure to receive SMRR’s endorsement is because SMRR, Unite Here! and the Santa Monica Democratic Club have formed a progressive cabal of sorts and decide amongst themselves who should and shouldn’t be on the Council then lie to regular voters to get their way.

There’s two small problems with this theory. First, SMRR and the Santa Monica Democratic Club didn’t endorse all of the same candidates. True, both endorsed Jesse Zwick and Caroline Torosis who won election to the Council. But SMRR endorsed Ellis Raskin (who finished fifth) and the Democratic Club Natalya Zernitskaya (who finished fourth). Negrete finished third in an election where the top three vote getters attain office.

Second, Negrete has somehow forgotten that in 2022 she authored legislation that would dramatically undercut the city’s rent control formulas that dictate how much landlords of rent control units can collect. The author of the 2012 city legislation that guides the city’s current rent control formula explained in this piece at Westside Voice how Negrete’s proposal would change rent control in the city.

When Negrete talks in the video about rallies being held against her in 2022, she’s remembering rallies that were held against that legislation. Again, it wasn’t personal. It was policy.

Negrete mentions the Santa Monica Democratic Club several times in the interview, but unlike SMRR and Unite Here! doesn’t give a reason for not receiving the endorsement. So we reached out to Dem. Club president Jon Katz who provided the explanation for us.

“The reason Lana Negrete was not endorsed by our Club in 2022 is that she declined to return her questionnaire by our deadline,” Katz succinctly explains.

From there, Negrete lists her complaints with individuals and non-political groups and rehashes the story of “the time then Mayor Sue Himmelrich accused her of evading the secret-service to pose with Joe Biden on the tarmac at SMO,” “the time Santa Monica Next uncovered she was serving as middle man between a restaurant that was under investigation for covering up an assault and SMPD officers with untraceable gift cards,” and “the time she succeeded in getting her supporters to harass and jeer Jason Mastbaum and he compared her to Trump.”

If one didn’t know better, the narratives woven together create a perfect picture of Negrete as hero and victim. However, the vice-mayor of the city who often votes with the three members of the “Change Slate” of candidates that were elected in 2020 to enact policy over the other three votes, is in a position of power. 

Her exhortation that it’s not her problem if people take issue with what she says flies in the face of her very personal reaction to people taking issue with her politics. That she took these broadsides in a broadcast for a media group best known for spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the efficacy of the COVID vaccine also tells a story.

“Vice Mayor Negrete complains that people are “so misinformed” in the way they get their news these days,” continued Katz after watching the interview.

“This is true, and one of the major contributors to this problem is the very outlet she was speaking to, the Epoch Times, a far right conspiracy theory-peddling media company that has promoted QAnon, 2020 election fraud, and dangerous anti-vaccine fake science. Unfortunately, the Vice Mayor shares that she is a regular viewer of the Epoch Times, which explains why she is so susceptible to believing false narratives and conspiracy theories about our own local politics, including the insinuation that the Santa Monica Democratic Club and other progressive organizations in the City rig our endorsement processes.”

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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