Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles dropped the n-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night — after calling one of them a “f*cking a**hole,” a “b*tch” and a “girl,” the two senators said.
Over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart had risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus had elected him.
Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang term was not meant to be insulting, Gibson and Thurston said. It’s unclear whom Artiles was referring to, since the only black senators in the state Senate are all Democrats — and none of them backed Negron’s bid to lead the chamber.
“He called Joe Negron a p*ssy,” Thurston said.
Artiles apologized to Gibson late Tuesday afternoon, after he’d been reported to Republican leaders and news reporters started asking questions.
“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. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”
By Tuesday night, the Florida Democratic Party had called on Artilesto resign. Negron, after initially saying little on the incident, said in a statement late Tuesday he was “appalled” by Artiles’ comments — and that Artiles will publicly apologize to Gibson on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“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.
The Black Caucus has scheduled an emergency Wednesday meeting.
To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “niggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.