Racism in politics isn’t anywhere near new, but it’s still galling when we hear it as blatantly as two Florida state senators say they heard it from a Republican colleague in the state legislature.

According to the Miami Herald, Sen. Frank Artiles of  Miami, while having drinks at an exclusive club near the state capitol, said to Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that Florida Senate president Joe Negron had gotten his leadership role because “six n*ggers” in the GOP caucus voted him in.

Gibson and Thurston said he tried to clear it up later by saying to them he actually had said “n*ggas,” as if there would have really been a difference in that circumstance. But the Herald pointed out that the only Blacks in the Florida state senate are Democrats and none of them supported Negron, a Republican, to get the position. So it is not clear who he was referring to.

From the Herald:

To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “n*ggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

The discussion began Monday night after Artiles approached Gibson at the Governors Club to suggest that a series of questions he’d asked of one of her bills earlier in the day were payback for questions she’d asked before of one of Artiles’ bills.

At one point, Artiles referred to Gibson as “this [expletive]” and “this [expletive],” Gibson said.

Gibson complained to Thurston, who had been talking to other people at Gibson’s table during the exchange. Thurston asked Artiles if he had in fact referred to Gibson in those terms. Artiles denied it, Thurston said — but urged by Thurston, apologized.

Then, someone else at the table — not an elected official — asked Artiles about another word he’d used in reference to Gibson: “girl.” Artiles said he meant no disrespect.

But when the conversation turned to Senate GOP leadership, Artiles used the n-word.

“He said, ‘If it wasn’t for these six n*ggers,’” Gibson said. By way of explanation, he added, “‘I’m from Hialeah,’” she said.

“I said, ‘OK, Perry, I’m done,’” Gibson said.

Gibson left the conversation to go to the restroom.

“I said, ‘Dude, did you say ‘n*ggers?’” Thurston recounted. “‘No, I said ‘n*ggas,’” which is different in his mind.” But not in Gibson’s and Thurston’s, they said.

Hialeah is a suburb of Miami with only a six percent African-American population, according to U.S. Census data.
Artiles, who is Cuban-American and represents Miami, released a statement apologizing for his language. “In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”


But the damage may already be done. The Florida Democratic Party has called on Artiles to resign. Also, the state legislature’s Black Caucus has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday. Further, Negron himself blasted Artiles for making the comments. “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.
Artiles is scheduled to publically apologize on the Florida Senate floor on Wednesday, according to Negron.