Florida GOP State Senator Drops N-Word In Front Of Black Colleagues

Steve Cannon/FR127919 AP

A Republican state senator from Miami is facing calls for his resignation after it was reported that he used a racial slur in front of two black colleagues. He also called one of them a “fucking asshole,” “bitch,” and “girl,” according to The Miami Herald.

The Herald reported Tuesday night that a day earlier, Sen. Frank Artiles used the n-word to refer to some of his Republican colleagues in Florida’s Senate in a conversation with two Democratic colleagues, Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale, who are black.

Over drinks at the Governors Club in Tallahassee, the Herald reported, Artiles complained to his two colleagues that the state’s Senate president had won that position due to the votes of  “six niggers” in his caucus. Gibson and Thurston told the Herald that Artiles later said he had used the word “niggas.”

Thurston invited Artiles to meet at Gibson’s office to apologize at 9 a.m. Tuesday, but he told the Herald that Artiles didn’t show up. Gibson told the Herald that Artiles didn’t apologize when they were in committee meetings Tuesday, either.

“It was a slang term, and I am not a racist,” Artiles told POLITICO Florida in a text message. “I am not a racist.” The Herald reported that after using the slur, perhaps to justify it, Artiles said that he was from Hialeah, which is home to a large Cuban-American community.

Earlier in the conversation, Gibson told the Herald, Artiles referred to her as “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch,” during a discussion of legislation. Though Artiles denied using the terms for Gibson to Thurston at the time, he apologized to Gibson at Thurston’s urging. An unnamed source told the Herald that Artiles called Gubson “girl.” Artiles said he did not mean to be disrespectful.

Gibson told the Herald, “It’s just the most disrespect I’ve ever encountered.”

Sen. Joe Negron, Republican state Senate president from Stuart, gave Artiles time to formally apologize on the Senate floor Wednesday, the Florida Times-Union reported. On Tuesday Negron said of the incident, in part: “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.”

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said in a statement Tuesday evening, as reported by the Herald, Times-Union and Politico. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

On Wednesday Morning, the Herald’s Patricia Mazzei reported on Artiles’ formal apology from the floor:

Artiles is facing calls to resign from the Florida Democratic Party, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King and others. The state’s Republican Party chairman said in part, according to Politico: “That’s a decision he’s going to have to make. It’s not my job as chair to say what somebody should or should not do.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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