TALLAHASSEE — Whether they’re calling women “vaginas” or Mexicans “rapists,” Republican politicians have been a little slow to grasp what constitutes acceptable language under the Zeitgeist of today. This has never been more evident than this week when a Florida state senator gleefully indulged in a shocking display of racism at a club near the Capitol.
Cuban-American Senator Frank Artiles, who represents Florida’s 40th district, smack dab in the middle of Miami-Dade County, got into a heated argument with his Senate colleagues Perry Thurston and Audrey Gibson, both African-Americans, at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club, using phrases such as “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch” in his clash with Gibson.
As though that weren’t enough, Artiles went on to offer his opinion that Florida Senate President Joe Negron was elected to his position solely because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus put him there.
Gibson quickly excused herself from the club.
“Dude, did you say ‘niggers?’” asked a disbelieving Thurston.
“No, I said ‘niggas’” clarified the increasingly tone deaf Artiles.
Artiles, at a youthful 43 years of age, doesn’t even have the excuse of having come of age in a past era of casual racism. One wonders what he could possibly have been thinking.
Negron said he was “appalled” by the comments.
“Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators,” he expressed in a written statement, “and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President.”
Unsurprisingly, Artiles was swiftly called on to both apologize and resign. He complied with the first demand, but has thus far stubbornly refused the second, despite being stripped of his position as chairman of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.
“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all of those I have offended,” Artiles said before the Senate on Wednesday. “My harsh words have adversely reflected more on me than they could ever have on anyone else.”
How he thought they could have reflected any differently is baffling. Equally baffling is what Artiles was even talking about in the first place; his claim of “six niggers” tipping the scales in Negron’s election makes little sense, considering the only African-Americans serving in the state Senate are Democrats, none of whom backed Negron.
The hapless Artiles went on to apologize specifically to Gibson, saying, “I am so sorry for the words and tone I used with you. There is no excuse, nor will I offer one. My comments to you are the most regretful of all because they injured you personally.”
Gibson would not acknowledge Artiles during the apology. Thurston was no more forgiving.
“Too little, too late,” he commented. “It’s hard to put it back.”
It was the second apology for Artiles, after his relatively curt, “I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” on Tuesday failed to satisfy his detractors.
Despite the bold and condemnatory response from Negron, Artiles maintains he “absolutely” will not resign, which is perhaps not surprising. After all: why start showing respect for his colleagues and his office now?
Artiles isn’t the only State Senator who can’t seem to keep himself together during the 60-day legislative session.
State Rep. Cary Pigman was arrested last month and charged with aggravated DUI!