When looking for evidence of racism, sexism, and vulgarity, you don’t have to look farther than Tallahassee.
Consider the example of Sen. Frank Artiles, who plumbed the depths of all three in an unhinged string of expletives directed primarily to Sen. Audrey Gibson.
The Miami Herald, writing about this, made the indelicate decision to quote Artiles directly.
“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 ‘fucking asshole,’ a ‘bitch’ and a ‘girl,’ the two senators said,” Patricia Mazzei wrote.
An apparent belief, per Mazzei, that Joe Negron “had been risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because ‘six niggers’ in the Republican caucus had elected him.”
Artiles served up even worse to Gibson, calling her “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch.”
Gibson told Mazzei that an apology would be meaningless.
“You’re just talking — loud — to a table of people about leadership. It made me sad … I can’t remember a time in my life when anybody called me either one of those things … It’s just the most disrespect I’ve ever encountered.”
Artiles served up a half-assed apology Tuesday evening.
“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me. There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”
We’ve reached out to Gibson for her take.
There is no recent analogue for this, save Matt Gaetz‘s tweet of recent vintage.
That material drew censure from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The Florida Democratic Party is already calling on Artiles to resign, citing “horrific racist sexist slurs … the latest in a string of violent, hateful incidents.”
How do Republicans counter this?
Updated 10 p.m. — Senate President Negron released a statement this evening:
“Senator Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening.
“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. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”
Updated 10:15 p.m. — Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to be Senate President in 2018-20, issued the following statement:
“Senator Audrey Gibson is an admired colleague and a personal friend, and under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner.
“I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow. Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the President and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again.”
Updated 9:00 a.m. Wednesday — Sen. Artiles is expected to led off Wednesday’s session of the Florida Senate with an apology to Sen. Gibson, even as there are real questions as to both the utility of an apology and the slowness and mildness of the response from GOP Senate leaders.
Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris King weighed in.
“The way this usually plays out is that Senator Artiles will apologize, and we’ll all move to the next news cycle, and this will be forgotten about in a few weeks. But we can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.”
“Our politics in Florida and the way we treat one another must improve. This is another example of how Tallahassee and its one-party majority leadership is not serving this state with the excellence our citizens deserve,” said King.
“Senator Artiles should do the right thing and step down immediately. I call on Governor Scott to join the chorus of Democratic voices in saying that the remarks made by Senator Artiles were not just hurtful but set us all back, and to join us in demanding meaningful accountability.”
“The message needs to be clear – from both parties – that racism will not be tolerated and people will be held accountable for racist action. Because in an era of Donald Trump, we all must also hold ourselves accountable to the the idea that we will never allow these sentiments to be normal and without consequence,” King added.
10:05: Artiles extended a “heartfelt apology” to the body, signaling out Gibson.
“There’s no excuse, nor will I offer one … no one deserves to be spoken to that way, much less a person of your stature, dignity, and integrity.”
To Sen. Thurston, Artiles lauded his “friendship” as a “man of principle.”
And Sen. Negron got an apology also, for Artiles’ “crass and juvenile comments.”
“With regard to the word which I used to no one in particular,” Artiles noted that he grew up in a “diverse community” with what apparently was a robust “vernacular.”
No opportunity was immediately ceded for Gibson, Thurston, or Negron to respond to those comments, as the Senate moved immediately into the consideration of bills.