Some lawmakers are calling for Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, to resign after he launched into an alcohol-fueled tirade Monday night in the bar of the members-only Governor's Club, where he made derogatory remarks about a fellow senator, including a racial slur.
On Wednesday morning Senate President Joe Negron removed Artiles as chair of the Committe on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities, effective immediately, replacing him with Sen. Kelli Stargel. Artiles remains vice chairman of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Negron had issued a statement late Tuesday saying Artiles will apologize on the Senate floor Wednesday morning to Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, for the derogatory remarks he made about her, including use of a racial slur.
According to the Miami Herald, Artiles was heard to use the word "niggers," though he claims he really had said "niggas," which he called a harmless slang-term. The Herald also reported Artiles referred to Gibson as "this bitch" and "girl" -- and 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.
Negron said Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, informed him of the incident. And in his statement, he said, "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."
Senate Republican leader Wilton Simpson told Politico he was outraged. “What has been reported is completely and totally unacceptable and is not befitting of a member of the Florida Senate. We cannot support this hateful language. It is simply not acceptable.”
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, in line to become the next Senate president, issued a statement expressing his disgust: "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 the Herald, "Things could get complicated, however, especially if the Democratic caucus votes to file a formal complaint alleging a violation of the rules and conduct and triggering a full-blown ethics review by the Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers."
The Florida Democratic Party called for Artiles' resignation. "There is never an excuse for racism or misogyny and the people of Florida aren't buying it," said FDP spokeswoman Johanna Cervone. "Resign now."
The Senate is in session Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. It is being televised on The Florida Channel.