Florida State Senator Apologizes for Using Racial Slurs During Private Conversation With Black Colleagues

FILE – This March 9, 2012, file photo shows Republican state senator Frank Artiles, R-Miami, asking a questions about a pip insurance bill during house session in Tallahassee, Fla. Artiles, a Republican state senator, is expected to apologize publicly Wednesday April 19, 2017, for using racial slurs and obscene insults in a private after-hours conversation with African-American colleagues. (Steve Cannon, File/Associated Press)

A Florida state senator apologized Wednesday for using a racial slur and vulgar insults during a private after-hours conversation with two African-American colleagues.

Republican Sen. Frank Artiles gave the three-minute apology on the Senate floor as the chamber began its business for the day.

“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all of those I have offended,” said Artiles, a Cuban-American from the Miami area. “My harsh words have adversely reflected more on me than they could ever have on anyone else.”

Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” at Tallahassee’s members only Governors Club with Democratic Sens. Gibson and Perry Thurston on Monday night. He also cursed at Gibson, calling her a vulgar name, and referred to Senate President Joe Negron using a vulgar term.

Just before the apology, Negron replaced Artiles as chairman of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

Artiles said he was particularly sorry for the words he hurled at Gibson, of Jacksonville, because they were personal.

“I am so sorry for the words and tone I used with you,” Artiles said. “There is no excuse, nor will I offer one. My comments to you are the most regretful of all because they injured you personally.”

Gibson, who sits two rows in front of Artiles, didn’t turn to look at him.

Earlier, she said, “There is a firestorm and it’s an unfortunate circumstance. It’s a situation I hope never happens again.”

“There should be no grudges and reason to talk terribly to or about anyone,” she added. “I’m ready to move past it so we can do the work.”

Thurston said the apology wasn’t enough.

“Too little, too late,” said Thurston, whose district includes parts of Fort Lauderdale. “It’s hard to put it back. And she (Gibson) said it herself this morning, words have consequences.”

Artiles said afterward that he doesn’t plan to resign.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday night that Artiles told Gibson and Perry that Negron rose to power because “six n——” in the Republican caucus elected him. The two senators told the Herald that Artiles later said he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang word wasn’t intended to be insulting.

It’s unclear to whom Artiles was referring because the only black senators are Democrats, and none of them backed Negron’s bid to lead the chamber.

Artiles said in his apology that his use of the racial slur wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.

“I grew up in a diverse community. We share each other’s customs, cultures and vernacular,” he said. “I realize that my position does not allow me for the looseness of words or slang, regardless of how benign my intentions were.”

Some Democrats demanded his resignation, and the Black Caucus planned to meet Wednesday and address the media in the afternoon.

In his own statement, Negron said he was “appalled” about the comment.

“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 wrote.

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Brendan Farrington