A Florida state senator has stepped down amid intense backlash after he used the n-word to criticize several colleagues during an alcohol-fueled diatribe at a Tallahassee bar.
Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) said Friday morning in a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron that he was accepting responsibility for his actions — days after fellow legislators started pushing for his expulsion.
“It is clear to me my recent actions and words that I spoke fell far short of what I expect for myself, and for this I am very sorry,” he wrote in the letter. “I apologize to my family and friends and I apologize to all of my fellow Senators and lawmakers. To the people of my district and all of Miami-Dade, I am sorry I have let you down and ask for your forgiveness. My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State.
“I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”
The Republican state senator had been facing pressure to resign since a heated conversation Monday night with Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston, both of whom are black.
The three lawmakers were chatting at the members-only Governor’s Club near the state Capitol when Artiles called Negron, the senate president, a vulgar word for female genitalia and said he had won his position because “six n—–s” had elected him, according to the Miami Herald.
When Gibson and Thurston recoiled at the comment, Artiles tried to defend himself by saying he meant to use a different version of the n-word, ending with “as” rather than “ers,” according to Politico. The word was acceptable, he reportedly told them, because he hailed from Hialeah, a largely Hispanic city in Miami-Dade County. At one point, Politico reported, he also called Gibson an insulting word.
With that, Gibson stormed off, saying, “I’m done,” Politico reported.
Thurston told the Herald he stayed and urged Artiles to apologize.
Eventually, Artiles did — but it took the intervention of the Senate minority leader and another lawmaker, according to the Herald.
“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” he said in a statement provided to the newspaper. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”
The senate president reprimanded Artiles in a statement Tuesday, saying: “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.”
On Wednesday morning, Negron forced Artiles to extend a formal apology while on the Senate floor, according to the Miami Herald.
Still, the newspaper reported, other legislators wanted to see him go.
“If every time a senator made a mistake or someone made a mistake that they were going to resign, we’d have half the Senate gone for whatever reason,” Artiles told reporters Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald. Asked whether he would consider stepping down, he added: “Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I’m not only not going to resign, but I’m also going to file for 2018 and win my election.”
In a statement Friday, Artiles took a much different tone, saying he now plans to “prioritize the people that matter most in my life.”
“This experience has allowed me to see that for too many years I have sacrificed what I hold most dear in my life, my wife and my two young daughters,” Artiles said in the statement to The Washington Post. “While I take full responsibility for using language that was vulgar and inappropriate, my family has fallen victim to a political process that can distort the truth for the sole purpose of political gain.
“I clearly made comments that were hurtful, unacceptable and inappropriate. The American people and Floridians want their leaders to be accountable and responsible, and by resigning my elected office I believe I am demonstrating those qualities they desire and deserve.”
A previous version of this story misidentified Artiles’s race in the headline. The post has been updated.