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Nancy Smith

Disgraceful Artiles Incident Wasn't Joe Negron's Finest Hour

April 19, 2017 - 8:00pm
Joe Negron and Frank Artiles
Joe Negron and Frank Artiles

Senate President Joe Negron's immediate response after he heard about Sen. Frank Artiles' racial slur and other defamatory remarks delivered to fellow senators at the Governor's Club wasn't good enough.

I know I've been at odds with Negron over policy issues this session, but I have known him a long time -- and always as a good and decent man. That's why I don't understand how he could have tripped so badly over Artiles' loutish actions.

Now Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts has been called in as a special master (see the attachment at the end of this column).

What was Negron waiting for? Surely the disgust is bipartisan.

I Beg to Differ

Artiles, R-Miami, drinking at the bar Monday night, called fellow Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville "this bitch" and "girl" and worse, as I understand it. He used the word "niggers," though he claims he really had said "niggas," which he called a harmless slang-term. On top of that, he told Gibson and Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, that Negron (whom Artiles called "a pussy") had become Senate president because he got votes from "six niggers" in the Republican caucus.

None of this is in doubt. The members-only bar was crawling with witnesses. Even Artiles doesn't deny it.

Trouble is, this particular senator has been walking on thin ice for a long time. Bad behavior, the kind that dishonors his diverse constituents and the integrity of the Senate is a pattern with him. Negron knows it, all of Tallahassee knows it. In 2015 he punched a college student in the face at Clyde’s & Costello’s bar in Tallahassee. The Miami Herald revealed a recording Tuesday night of the former Marine using the anti-Muslim term "hajis" and, as SaintPetersBlog publisher Peter Schorsch pointed out in a column of his own, Artiles has a name, or a label, he has to call everyone -- he can't help himself.     

Negron is the Senate president -- and not just for the 40 members in the upper chamber. He is the Senate president for 20 million Floridians. 

Sen. Audrey Gibson
Sen. Audrey Gibson

He could have -- should have -- jumped out in front of this "offensive and reprehensible" incident, as he called it -- not waited for Sen. Perry Thurston, to file an official complaint.  He should have refused to allow Artiles time on the Senate floor to offer an apology that, frankly, had about as much sincerity as a two-line thank-you note. He could have pre-empted the apology, gone directly to Rules Committee Chair Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto as he did Wednesday, and asked her ahead of even Sen. Perry Thurston's complaint, to appoint a special master.

The process is in place to do it. Have a look at the Senate Rules: page 21, 1.43.

Wouldn't you have thought Negron's first clue that he should go straight to Benacquisto, give Artiles no bully pulpit on the Senate floor, would have been Artiles' apparently instinctive lack of concern for Gibson on Tuesday morning? Wasn't Negron angered that Artiles' first thought the morning after was NOT the senator he offended so deeply, but apparently his own survival? A senator actually had to march Artiles to Gibson's door to apologize -- and that wasn't until Tuesday night.

Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida said Gibson kept her back turned to Artiles throughout his nearly four-minute speech at 10 a.m. Wednesday and later called his apology "meaningless." Gibson said Artiles unleashed the invectives in reaction to her "questioning the Republican's amendments during committee meetings last week."

Kam quoted Gibson: "'It's just ugly, in any setting, and totally unacceptable. I doubt that he would talk to his wife that way. I don't guess that he does, or any other woman that he cares about, or any other people that he cares about,' she said, adding that Artiles' explanation for his use of a word that is so heavily charged for African Americans put a 'little ding' in his show of remorse."

Something is missing in Artiles' heart. I'm sorry for him, I really am. But even now, stone-cold sober, he doesn't get it. Doesn't understand how ugly racially charged language is to all people of good will, but especially when it comes from a state senator, an elected leader, in whom the public places its trust.

When asked Wednesday if he would step down, he told reporters, "If every time a senator made a mistake, or someone made a mistake, that they had to resign … we'd have half the Senate gone for whatever reason. I did not insult anybody directly. What I did was have a heated debate with a colleague, and I basically apologized for that. As a matter of fact, I'm not only not going to resign, I'm going to file for 2018, and I'm going to win my election."

We'll find out what the special master has to say all in good time. Certainly Negron has done everything he's going to do. "Any further action … that may or may not occur would be between (Artiles) and his constituents. Every senator is judged by his or her conduct," Negron said.

Tuesday and Wednesday ... not the Senate president's finest hour.

If Artiles isn't going to resign, as he should, Senate leadership can properly shun him, English Parliament-style. I've seen that in action. It's incredibly effective.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 


If you know artiles you know he is a bully. Always has been. being matter of fact is not synonymous with being a rude pig. He should promise to go to sensitivity training, lead on race issues and do other forms of penance for the sin of arrogance and self righteousness.

I don't know Artiles but if he is all of that he probably shouldn't be a State Senator.

To Anonymous. Ah, yes, arrogance and self righteousness. You start off with "If you know Artiles you know he is a bully". That mean you know the guy? Black people should get on their knees at night and thank a merciful God for the slave trader that brought their ancestor to this country. Artiles had a few drinks and shot his mouth off. Suspect he genuinely wishes he hadn't. Sensitivity training? Really? And who pays for that? And what good do you think that will do? How bout this? Altho I did not used to feel this way, September 11 changed me. At this point I AM anti Muslim. Someone tells me they want to kill me I often am not a fan. Most of us are sick and tired of your pseudo political correctness. You don't like the guy, don't vote for him. Donate money to his political opposition. But spare me your whining. You really unhappy? Move to Somalia.

Naaaaah. We wont be doing that. Bu if you want, you can get on your knees and thank black people for building this country on their backs for 400 years. you can thank them them for spurring on the industrial revolution with the savings and revenues from their free labor. and of course, only if you want, you can apologize on behalf of those slave traders and colonist to for pillaging Africa of its people and it's wealth. And yes i know some groups of black people sold other groups of black people. They were wrong also but it does not absolve those white people of their crime. If someone was selling kidnapped babies would you buy some and put em to work? Many countries in Africa were and still are rich in resources. go read about them. Why would we have wanted to leave? and why would we leave the U.S. now? We've helped to make it what it is. our blood runs through this soil along with Native Americans and Europeans. It is as much ours as it is yours. So if you have a problem with us being unhappy about our own mistreatment, even though that very sentiment was the reason for the U.S.'s birth, spare me your unpatriotic whining and move to slovakia.

This guy knows his history. Most Africans arrived in America before most Caucasians. Black people were at least as instrumental in building the antebellum South into a financial power as the Europeans.

To all the hypocrits reading this, especially those that insist on being called African American just because of their color, you are the racists. If you have the God given privledge to be born in this country or have been given the ability to travel and arrive in this country it should be your honor to be called American, regardless of color. I, like so many other Americans, are just tired of the divide caused by liberals in an attempt to change the true values of this country. Mr Artiles, has valiantly served his country as a Marine and served his constituents in his community for over 8 years as Representative. He has done so many good things which have gone unnoticed by the liberal media in all the articles I have read. He has apologized and for the Senator to turn her back is not behavior that exemplifies a Senator either. She has an obligation to sit and listen and let the people choose if Artiles should be in the position. People open your eyes, this is the liberal media going after a Republican. Yes , a republican that made a mistake but has apologized. Let the American people choose. Now let's all get back to addressing what really matters in this State like lack of healthcare access, mental health and education, and rising waters due to climate change. People, I am a Christian Republican and yes, I believe in climate change. Let's all start addressing this and how insurance companies are going to start adding mandatory riders to our homes due to rising waters, how we aren't going to afford to live in Florida anymore because housing is unaffordable and how our drinking water is going to become contaminated because sea water will infiltrate our water reservoirs. Let's see how Sen Artiles works on those issues and vote at the next election.

Mr. Negron will also be taught a lesson in his home district for failing to act upon something in the correct manner!

As a veteran, this man is a disgrace to veterans, to the people of Florida and to the Senate. His service in the Corps may have been honorable, but that is the only thing honorable about this fool. He should be run out of the Senate, removed from office.

Senate Rule 1.43(1) requires a sworn complaint to be made by a person with "personal knowledge" of the incident. Hence, President Negron could not have made the complaint to Sen. Benaquisto because his knowledge was based on hearsay. Here's the relevant portion of the text: "The complaint shall be based on personal knowledge, shall state detailed facts, shall specify the actions of the named Senator which form the basis for the complaint, shall attach all documentation on which the complaint is based, and shall identify the specific Rule alleged by the complainant to have been violated by the Senator." President Negron did not fail in discharging his responsibilities as presiding officer; he upheld them.

Oh, woe is me. Who cares? While I do not consider myself particularly racist- choosing to take people one at a time- I do think Malcolm X had a point. BET offends me. Cars with rap noise and vulgar lyrics offend me. Rap offends me. The Negro population of this country is around 14%. You would not know it by TV programming. That offends me. Bi racial couples with bi racial children on TV offends me. That aint how it is - that's how the liberal left wants it to be. Maybe most offensive is Maxine Waters, a true racist thief in every sense of the word. Corrine Brown. Charlie Rangell. Marion Barry. In an all black district a black wins every time. Is that racist? Frank Artiles had a bad night and apologized for it. You ever have a bad night? If his social crime was so heinous then let his constituents vote him out.

I wish you were as offended by poor working people denied doctors as you are some Pol who gets sloshed in an overpriced Tally lobbyist watering hole. Save the self-righteousness.

Artiles should be finished, politically, and depending on his own district's thinking, Bottom line, Artiles' racist thoughts & feelings are now out, let's see what's next.

Let the voters decide. Shut up and get back to work.

In that crap hole of a town, that's what work is. They light to bulldoze the whole joint and move the Capitol to Florida

Very surprised the man would go on such a vicious, drunken rant in public. He approached her, not vice versa. This isn't about hurt feelings. There are only 40 Senators in our state. It is a position of great responsibility. To work together on the big issues, Senate rules require decorum and respect. He knows better. The man has two law degrees and was a State Rep for 8 years. Lack of courtesy and professionalism, and he should be well aware. .

bboo hooo....well people (state officals) you better start worrying about getting YOUR JOB DONE on what people elected you on & QUIT hissy footing around with name calling....Whether there is any truth in it or got your chance When Pres.Trump got Elected ...SO GO TO WORK & DO YOUR JOB...

Polarizing positions on issues is one thing. Dems and Republicans are going to disagree. That's politics. Calling a woman a "itch" and using the N-word in any context is disgraceful and pure disrespectful. If he truly believes it is ok, then say it on the campaign trail. See how that works for him. Say it in a room full of non-politicians, see how that works for him. Better yet say it to one of the male African American politicians and see how that works out for him. You are right we have real issues in this State that need mature, rational, educated individuals to address and solve. This man is not what we need. Respect is earned not just given. Senator Gibson has earned the respect of her constituents, her colleagues and the great people of this State. Frank is getting in bar fights with college students and getting drunk like a teenager that just left home.

How about it is time to start worrying about the state and not about words .Time to start dealing with 100 important issues. In the real world we all have been called something in anger or liquid courage.

In the real world he would have gotten dealt with. Liquid courage want help

Just goes to show: even incompetent, loudmouthed idiots do often get elected... THIS moronic bully is a disgrace to the "Corps"; he SHOULD be censured, and "fall on his sword" !

You're just now learning that idiots can get elected? Where the heck have you been?

Comments are now closed.

nancy smith


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