Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

Miami state senator curses at black lawmaker — and uses N-word to refer to white Republicans

UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after he issued an apology to Sen. Audrey Gibson for using a racial slur and profanity, Sen. Frank Artiles apologized the floor of the Florida Senate. Watch the video

TALLAHASSEE — 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------ a------," a "b----" 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 n-----rs" in the Republican caucus had elected him.

Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he'd used the word "n----as," 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.

Artiles apologized to Gibson late Tuesday afternoon, after he'd been reported to Republican leaders and 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 later 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."

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

REACTION: Artiles backlash builds - Negron, Galvano, Democrats respond

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 f------- a------" and "this b----," 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------,'" 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 the restroom.

Thurston urged Artiles to apologize to Gibson upon her return.

"Let's kind of nip this in the bud," Thurston said.

But Gibson was so upset she didn't come back.

"I'm very respectful to this process. I'm very respectful to everyone," Gibson said. "And the way he was characterizing the vote — it wasn't nice."

Thurston offered to meet Artiles at Thurston's office at 9 a.m. Tuesday so Thurston could accompany him to Gibson's office to apologize.

Artiles never showed up, said Thurston, who by then had notified Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens about the incident. Though Artiles and Gibson on Tuesday were both on the Senate floor and at a transportation budget committee, Artiles didn't apologize on either occasion, Gibson said.

"I'm at a loss for words," Braynon said. "You just don't speak to someone like that."

By Tuesday afternoon, Negron's office had been notified of the incident. His spokeswoman didn't immediately comment.

But Artiles, escorted by incoming Republican Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton, showed up after 6 p.m. to apologize to Gibson, Thurston and Braynon.

Before he did, Gibson had told the Herald an apology would be "meaningless."

"You're just talking — loud — to a table of people about leadership. It made me sad," she said. "I can't remember a time in my life when anybody called me either one of those things," she added, referring to the two insults directed at her. "It's just the most disrespect I've ever encountered."

Artiles, a Cuban-American ex-Marine who represents Southwest Miami-Dade County, has gotten into notorious trouble in Tallahassee before. Two years ago, a college student in town for spring break said Artiles punched him in the face at Clyde's & Costello's, a downtown bar a couple of doors away from the Governor's Club, just hours before the start of the 2015 legislative session.

Voters elected Artiles, a former state House member, to Senate District 40 in November. He defeated former Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard, who is African-American.

Artiles' slur came the night before a diverse group of lawmakers from both parties gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday to offer an emotional apology to the Groveland Four, the four African-American men who were wrongfully convicted by a racist Lake County sheriff in 1949.

Gibson said Tuesday she couldn't look at Artiles after he started railing against her Monday night because she had "never, ever, ever" been treated that way.

"Maybe I should've asked him to leave the table," she said.

Artiles is getting a lot of attention this session.

Comments
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

SPRING HILL — A Hernando County woman new to the political arena has filed as the fifth Democrat to run against longtime Florida lawmaker U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster for his spot in the U.S. House of Representatives.Dana Cottrell, 49, has lived in Sprin...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election charged an attorney Tuesday with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official. A charging document filed in federa...
Published: 02/20/18
Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina man with a felony conviction for indecent liberties with a child was one-half of the poster couple for a new "Trump Dating" website.News outlets reported Monday that visitors to the dating site geared toward suppor...
Published: 02/20/18
Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Associated PressST. PETERSBURG, Russia — While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg, Russia, "troll factory" say t...
Published: 02/19/18
Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Associated PressWEST PALM BEACH — From the confines of his Mar-a-Lago golf club, President Donald Trump offered support Monday for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases while staying largely mum in the past few days ab...
Published: 02/19/18
For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

The White House was under siege.Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught chargin taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extram...
Published: 02/19/18
President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Donald Trump signaled support for one piece of gun control legislation on Monday, five days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and scores injured."The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal...
Published: 02/19/18
Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

One of the quotes from the 2016 presidential campaign that has stuck with me came from an unidentified Donald Trump supporter who shared his appraisal of the "Access Hollywood" tape on an episode of Showtime’s "The Circus."Having heard Trump boast on...
Published: 02/18/18
Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive. "You're the president. You're supposed t...
Published: 02/18/18