GOP Florida Sen. Frank Artiles resigns after racist, sexist rant against black colleagues

AP

Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami-Dade) resigned from the Florida legislature Friday after unleashing a racist and sexist diatribe against two black colleagues at a Tallahassee bar four days earlier, the Miami Herald reports

The announcement came shortly after Artiles was forced to apologize Wednesday to his fellow legislators on the senate floor.

"My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process and the citizens of our great state," Artiles wrote in his resignation letter, according to the Herald. "I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate."

Artiles made the controversial comments Monday night, during a private conversation with two black fellow legislators — Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale — both of whom are Democrats. 

Artiles allegedly called Gibson a "fucking asshole" and a "bitch," and suggested that Senate President Joe Negron, who was not at the bar at the time, only got his leadership position because "niggers" in the Republican caucus voted for him (an odd claim, as there are no black Republicans in the Florida Senate).

Sen. Audrey Gibson in 2015.  Steve Cannon/AP

Artiles spent much of the past week fending off suggestions that he might resign over the outburst. On Wednesday after he apologized, he reportedly suggested that the very idea was ridiculous.

"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 said, according to the Miami Herald.

When asked again, Artiles doubled down on this statement.

"Absolutely not," he said. "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."

Florida legislature in March 2017.  Steve Cannon/AP

A 2018 re-election now appears to be off the table. On Thursday, several black Florida lawmakers called for Artiles' expulsion from the senate, and Sen. Thurston — who was at the bar with Artiles — filed a formal complaint accusing Artiles of violating Senate conduct rules. 

Thurston withdrew the complaint after Artiles resigned. Sen. Negron — who Artiles also spoke of disparagingly during his rant — opted not to go forward with an investigation into the incident, saying Artiles "made the right decision" by resigning.

"My Senate colleagues and I wish Senator Artiles and his family well," Negron said.

Artiles, meanwhile, seemed to hedge on his apology soon after he resigned. He attribute his downfall, in part, to distorted truths and shady politics, and hinted at the price his family paid for them.

"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. "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."