Mayor Konstantine Anthony faced criticism from City Council members and the community this week for his public conduct after a video surfaced on social media showing him being spanked by a drag queen during a fundraising event in Santa Clarita.
Anthony responded to those critics at a Burbank City Council meeting on Tuesday, saying he was going to take a “step back” and reconsider his choices in the future.
“I come from a very silly performance background,” Anthony said at Tuesday’s meeting. “To me, what is goofy and normal to other folks seems inappropriate. That’s not their fault. That’s mine. I need to learn that line.”
The video was secretly taken during a drag queen-led bingo night hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Democrats over the weekend and shared by the WiseNuts podcast. Anthony was shown being spanked with a paddle in the video.
WiseNuts frequently shares content from the “Leave Our Kids Alone” movement across social media, including videos disparaging pro-LGBTQ+ rights advocates and posts accusing transgender people of grooming children.
The video was then shared by a social media account which Anthony described Tuesday as a prominent hate group who “now deems fit to inundate the four [Council members] here, the city staff and many members of our community with some of the most vile hate speech I have ever seen,” he said.
“I am very dismayed by the vitriol and hate speech being sent towards the city recently. There have even been a few death threats and at least one bomb threat. Regardless, the city of Burbank stands with our LGBTQ+ community,” Anthony told the Leader.
Most Council members said they were not criticizing the spanking incident itself, but the back-and-forth dialogue on social media and email exchanges that occurred after the fact between the mayor and others online. In one such case, Anthony responded to a critic of the video with one word: “jealous.” At one point during the firestorm, he changed his Twitter profile name to “Mayor Spanky.”
Councilwoman Tamala Takahashi told the Leader that her primary concern was that, in engaging with people who espouse hate speech, Anthony may have “stoked the flame,” attracting additional undue attention to the issue.
“I do not judge our mayor’s actions or choices in his private life, campaigning or community activism; however, I do have strong feelings about how our work in the city of Burbank is conducted,” Takahashi said during Tuesday’s meeting.
“From a perspective of what we are doing here on this dais, to me a line has been crossed. While it may be entertaining to argue or witness banter on social media, the quips and renaming of accounts, it stops being fun and entertaining when that banter affects our city. … we have incredibly important issues in our city right now,” she said.
Tuesday evening, the Council was primed to pass an ordinance regulating evictions in Burbank. It was the culmination of months of work between the city, landlords and tenants, but much of the meeting was dedicated to addressing the incident.
According to Takahashi, city staff had to field more than 50 phone calls, and more than 100 emails.
“The city staff has wasted at least 30 hours or more of our taxpayer money on this issue,” she said.
The city issued a statement Monday, addressing the incident: “The city of Burbank recognizes the diverse range of personal activities pursued by its residents and representatives. We understand that the recent incident involving our mayor at a non-city event has drawn attention and elicited a variety of reactions from the community. We wish to emphasize that the incident was done on the mayor’s personal time, outside of Burbank. We acknowledge the public’s concerns and ask for understanding of the personal choices of individuals, while also reaffirming our commitment to promoting an inclusive, respectful and professional environment in all official city matters.”
Takahashi said that she has also dedicated more than 10 hours of her own time in recent days to dealing with fallout from the incident and fielding concerns.
“I have been to drag bingo and am a fan of drag. This is not about drag to me. This is about leadership and understanding how your actions impact the people you work with,” said Takahashi, adding that the Council members had received requests to remove Anthony from his role as mayor or from the Council altogether.
Councilwoman Zizette Mullins delivered a passionate testimony on Anthony’s conduct, requesting a future agenda item be added for the Council to discuss the conduct of Council members.
“We need to know how we all should conduct ourselves moving forward. This must be discussed on the dais. This must be understood,” she said.
The Burbank Republican Party and like-minded supporters have called for Anthony’s removal, stating that they do not wish to rely on the state’s recall process and instead encouraged the Council to take action.
“While your courage to speak your mind at last night’s Council meeting is tremendously appreciated and commendable, Mr. Anthony remains the executive head of the city. This is a [status] that cannot continue,” wrote Christopher Spencer, chairman of the Burbank Republican Party, in an email to the Council.
Though City Manager Justin Hess is the “executive head” of Burbank, and while the mayor’s role is technically a symbolic position, Spencer’s email reflects the sentiment behind the prospect of Anthony’s removal.
In a statement to the Leader, Anthony was unshaken by such threats, saying that he has received an outpouring of support since his public statement on Tuesday.
“The voters of Burbank overwhelmingly support their silly, down-to-earth mayor who bucks convention and refuses to take himself seriously,” he told the Leader. “It’s why they voted for me in the first place.”
“In the last 32 months, I have been extremely successful in passing the agenda I ran on in 2020. Gun control, renter protections, affordable housing construction, homeless services, environmental standards and a pro-union objective are the reasons I’m being targeted. I wish the vocal minority all the luck in the world recalling the highest-vote-getting mayor in Burbank history,” Anthony told the Leader.
The news made headlines internationally and was picked up by Fox News throughout the week, with Anthony appearing in an interview.
Fox News host Sean Hannity took to X, formerly known as Twitter, posting “What’s happening on the left?!”
Other news agencies incorrectly reported that children attended the fundraiser and witnessed the spanking. Anthony told Fox News there were no children at the event.
“All attendees were over 21 years of age,” Anthony told Fox News.
The invitation to the fundraiser indicated that all attendees were supposed to be 15 years or older, City News Service reported.
Instead of sweating the details, though, “back to business” was the attitude of Vice Mayor Nick Schultz and Councilwoman Nikki Perez, who both expressed that they had tired of talking about Anthony’s personal life.
“There have been a lot of calls to remove our mayor, and there are no provisions under the municipal code or the charter to do that,” said Vice Mayor Nick Schultz. “There is a petition to recall process, and that is your recourse against any elected official including myself, but I think that the best use of our time on this Council is to talk about the real issues that are impacting working people in this city, and any other expenditure of time is disrespectful to those that desperately need us to act.”
First published in the September 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.