Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried joined a rising chorus of Florida Democrats on Monday calling for the admonishment of Republican Rep. Anthony Sabitini of Howey-in-the-Hills after he said he would greet rioters in his county with an AR-15.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker José Oliva and Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls, Fried described Sabatini’s tweet as reckless and a violation of House rules.
“By encouraging armed violence against protestors, Representative Sabatini’s conduct fails to meet the basic standards of integrity, honor, confidence and professionalism that the House’s rules require,” Fried wrote.
Sabatini’s comments came after widely reported unrest, including violence and destruction of public property, in Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville, among other Florida cities.
The tweet included a picture of an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle.
“Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!,” Sabatini tweeted Sunday.
Attention potential “protesters” coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15—this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business—FYI! pic.twitter.com/G72q26YDww
— Rep. Anthony Sabatini (@AnthonySabatini) May 31, 2020
Fried, Florida’s top Democrat, added that Sabatini’s tweet undermined the rules that House members must serve “with integrity in the public interest” and perform “at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity …. of the House.”
“As Speaker of the House and Chair of the Rules Committee, I call upon you to admonish Representative Sabatini for his detrimental conduct through whatever means appropriate, including censure and removal of committee assignments, according to House Rules 15.9 and your judgement,” Fried concluded.
Sabatini is no stranger to criticism, particularly involving race. Sabatini’s complicated relationship with race includes being photographed in blackface as a youth. As well, he reportedly dressed like a “cartoon Mexican.”
Fried’s letter follows a complaint by Democratic Rep. Cindy Polo of Miami -Dade against Sabatini for inciting violence.