Miami GOP senator loses chairmanship, apologizes for using racial slur


Amid calls for his resignation, Florida Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, apologized Wednesday on the Senate floor for a tirade at a club that included making derogatory comments about a fellow senator and using a racial slur.

He specifically apologized to Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

RELATED: Complete Florida Legislature coverage

“I stand up before all of you, every one of you, and with great humility, I ask for your forgiveness,” Artiles said.

Shortly before the floor session, Negron stripped Artiles of his chairmanship of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. Negron appointed Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, to lead the committee. The News Service will have a full story later Wednesday.

The apology and stripping of his chairmanship came after news reports Artiles had berated Gibson on Monday night at the Governors Club near the Capitol. The Miami Herald reported that Artiles also used the word “niggers” — though he later said he had used the word “niggas” and suggested that he didn’t think the slang term was insulting.

Negron issued a statement late Tuesday saying that he was told about the incident by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. Negron said he was “appalled to hear that one senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner.”

“Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate president,” Negron said in the statement. “Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is expected to become Senate president after the 2018 elections, said Gibson “under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner.”

“I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow,” Galvano said. “Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the president and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again.”

The Florida Times-Union reported that Artiles’ tirade apparently stemmed from being upset that Gibson had voted against bills he sponsored and had asked critical questions about the measures.

The Herald reported that Artiles made derogatory comments, including referring to Gibson as “this bitch” and “girl.” According to the formal letter of complaint filed by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, Artiles also called Gibson and Negron other profane names.

Artiles, who was elected to the Senate in November after serving in the House, also told Gibson and Thurston that Negron had become Senate president because of getting votes from “six niggers” in the Republican caucus, the Herald reported. Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston — both of whom are black — that he had used the word “niggas.”

The Herald reported that it was unclear who Artiles was talking about. Negron won a hard-fought race to become Senate president, but he did not have support from any black senators.

Both newspapers said Artiles issued a statement Tuesday apologizing.

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” he reportedly said in the statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

The Florida Democratic Party, however, called on Artiles to resign because of the incident.

“Frank Artiles must resign now,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said. “His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Officials: Targeting welfare programs will help spur economic growth
Officials: Targeting welfare programs will help spur economic growth

Some House Republicans believe that Congress should cut Americans off government anti-poverty programs in part to help grow the national economy. “For us to achieve 3 percent GDP growth over the next 10 years from tax reform, we have to have welfare reform. We need people who are mentally and physically able to work to get into the workforce...
Trump to pitch tax plan; Treasury offers rosy estimate
Trump to pitch tax plan; Treasury offers rosy estimate

President Donald Trump on Wednesday will try to sell the American people on an unpopular Republican tax overhaul that his administration claims will generate a large part of $1.8 trillion in new revenue — a figure that a top Democratic lawmaker dismissed as “fake math.” The White House said Monday that Trump’s pitch will focus...
Trump accusers call for congressional investigation into alleged sexual misconduct
Trump accusers call for congressional investigation into alleged sexual misconduct

Update 3:15 p.m. Dec. 11: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the allegations levied against President Donald Trump in a news briefing Monday, telling reporters that the president has “addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.” "The American people knew this and voted...
The rise, striking fall of a Trump adviser
The rise, striking fall of a Trump adviser

A brass band played, fighter jets streaked the clear blue sky and a red carpet adorned the airport tarmac on the day in May 2016 when Vladimir Putin came to Athens for a visit.  "Mr. President, welcome to Greece," the Greek defense minister, Panos Kammenos, said in Russian as he smiled broadly and greeted a stone-faced Putin at the base...
8.8 million Americans face big tax hike if Republicans scrap the medical deduction
8.8 million Americans face big tax hike if Republicans scrap the medical deduction

Anne Hammer is one of millions of elderly Americans who could face a substantial tax hike in 2018 depending on the final negotiations over the Republican tax bill.  In her retirement community in Chestertown, Maryland, it's the big topic of conversation.  Hammer is 71. Like many seniors, her medical bills are piling up. There are doctor visits...
More Stories