Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

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

Sen. Frank Artiles, R- Miami, who chairs the Senate's Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, issued an apology on Tuesday to Sen. Audrey Gibson after he had been reported to Republican leaders for using offensive language directed at her and others. [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Apr. 19, 2017

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    Damien Kelly, the director of the Office of Safe Schools, told lawmakers that 11 districts have said they would like the option to arm instructional staff, but it wasn’t clear if all 11 had...
  2. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    Tom Lee chairs the Florida Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee, which has been tasked by the Senate president with coming up with a response to the most recent spate of mass shootings.
  3. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, a Republican, has asked for a City Council vote on a resolution asking congress for gun control measures. DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the Republican’s symbolic resolution will almost certainly fail.
  4. Former Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, left, and Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa looks on while Terrie Rizzo, the State Chair of the Florida Democratic Party speaks during the Florida Democratic Party and Forward Florida Action Partnership to register voters in Florida held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    It’s called ‘Campaign Blueprint’ and it’s the latest piece of the party’s rebuild
  5. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A quick look at a variety of salaries in Florida government.
  6. Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Miami, Florida while visiting Ball & Ball & Chain in Little Havana for a meet-and-greet with Hispanic voters on Sunday, September 15, 2019. [CARL JUSTE CJUSTE | MIAMI HERALD]
    Florida Democrats have feared that Trump has been mostly left unchecked to court Miami’s exile communities.
  7. Hillsborough Democratic Party Executive Director Mark Hanisee. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Party officials said they sold 750 tickets for $100 to $200 each for the Kennedy-King Dinner.
  8. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
  9. Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. [News Service of Florida] News Service of Florida
    ‘We’re going to find out at some point in the future,’ one Republican said.
  10. Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Lagoa, left, and Robert Luck, right, were appointed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta by President Trump. Florida Supreme Court
    Ok losers, who needs access to our state politicians, anyway?
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement