TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Miami Sen. Frank Artiles publicly apologized Wednesday morning for a tirade at a club that included making derogatory comments about a fellow senator and using a racial slur.
“I stand up before all of you, every one of you, and with great humility, I ask for your forgiveness,” Artiles said.
Shortly before the floor session, Negron stripped Artiles of his chairmanship of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. Negron appointed Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, to lead the committee.
The apology comes after news reports about Artiles berating Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, on Monday night at the Governors Club near the Capitol. The Miami Herald reported that Artiles also used the n-word though he later said he had used a slang version of it because he didn’t think it was insulting.
Senate President Joe Negron issued a statement late Tuesday saying that he was told about the incident by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. Negron said he was “appalled to hear that one senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner.”
“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,” Negron said in the statement. “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.”
Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is expected to become Senate president after the 2018 elections, said Gibson “under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner.”
“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,” said Galvano.
The Florida Times-Union reported that Artiles’ tirade apparently stemmed from being upset that Gibson had voted against bills he sponsored and had asked critical questions about the measures.
The Herald reported that Artiles made derogatory comments, including referring to Gibson as “this bitch” and “girl.”
Artiles, who was elected to the Senate in November after serving in the House, also told Gibson and Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, that Negron had become Senate president because of getting votes from “six n******” in the Republican caucus, the Herald reported. Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston — both of whom are black — that he had used the slang version of the word.
The Herald reported that it was unclear who Artiles was talking about. Negron won a hard-fought race to become Senate president, but he did not have support from any black senators.
Both newspapers said Artiles issued a statement Tuesday apologizing.
“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I, unfortunately, let my temper get the best of me,” he reportedly said in the statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”
Rep. Thurston did not accept Artiles’ apology.
“That isn’t enough at all. I don’t think it was heart-felt,” Thurston said.
He said he and other senators have joined in a complaint to start the process moving toward having Artiles expelled from the Senate.
The Florida Democratic Party has called on Artiles to resign because of the incident.
“Frank Artiles must resign now,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said. “His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society.”
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.