Former Florida secretary of state apologizes for blackface photos, blames ‘act of revenge’

Mike Ertel apologized Sunday for the blackface photos that led to his resignation last month and blamed their public revelation on an “act of revenge.”
Published February 3

Former Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel apologized Sunday for the blackface photos that led to his resignation last month and blamed their public revelation on an “act of revenge.”

The comments by Ertel, the first since he resigned after the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper showed the photos to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on Jan. 24, came two days after Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam was caught up in his own blackface scandal, for which he has refused to resign despite Democrats and Republicans alike calling for him to quit.

In a post on his Facebook page Sunday, Ertel wrote: “I’m a better man than I was fourteen years ago. Yet over the past week I have been rightfully apologizing for something I did Halloween night, 2005. For those who have not received a personal apology yet — I’m sorry.”

Ertel, 49, a Republican, told the Tallahassee newspaper last month that he was the man “in blackface and red lipstick, wearing earrings and a New Orleans Saints bandanna, and falsies under a purple T-shirt that had ‘Katrina Victim’ written on it.” The photos were taken two months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in August 2005, leading to 1,836 deaths.

Ertel had been appointed Seminole Supervisor of Elections earlier in 2005 by Gov. Jeb Bush. He was later elected supervisor four times until DeSantis appointed him secretary of state Jan. 8.

Ertel held that position, which oversees the state’s elections, for just 16 days.

While the source of the photos has not been revealed, Ertel implied that their release was because of a personal motive.

“I did something stupid fourteen years ago, which presented someone from my past with an opportunity for revenge,” Ertel said. “But the opportunity wasn’t just for them. Because while public revenge may be sweet for them, my private redemption, new family, and blessed life have been sweeter.”

DeSantis named Hillsborough Judge Laurel Lee to replace Ertel on Jan. 28.

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