Florida state senator to publicly apologize for racial slurs

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, asks a questions about a pip insurance bill during house session on Friday, March 9, 2012, in Tallahassee, Fla. Lawmakers worked through the night hoping to find common ground on a bill the House and Senate could agree on that might reduce fraud in the state's mandatory, increasingly expensive no-fault auto insurance that has resulted in costs increasing by $1.4 billion since 2008 in the personal injury protection (PIP) system. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida state senator is expected to apologize publicly Wednesday for using racial slurs and obscene insults in a private after-hours conversation with African-American colleagues.

Senate President Joe Negron said Miami-area Republican Sen. Frank Artiles had asked to apologize on the Senate floor to Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville.

The Miami Herald reported that Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” during a private conversation at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club with Democratic Sens. Gibson and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale on Monday night.

The newspaper report also says Artiles, a Cuban-American, directed obscene phrases at Gibson, and told them that Negron rose to power because “six n——” in the Republican caucus elected him. The two senators told the Herald that Artiles later said he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang word wasn’t intended to be insulting.

It’s not clear who Artiles was referring to because the only black senators in the Senate are Democrats, and none of them backed Negron’s bid to lead the chamber. The Herald reports Gibson and Thompson said Artiles was apparently referring to six Republicans who favored Negron over Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

Artiles apologized Tuesday, adding in a statement that he “unfortunately let my temper get the best of me” during an exchange with a colleague. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely,” he said in the statement.

Some Democrats began demanding his resignation. The Black Caucus has scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday morning.

In his own statement, Negron said he was “appalled” about the comment.

“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 wrote.

The Herald reports the exchange involving the senators began Monday night after Artiles approached Gibson to suggest that a series of questions he’d asked about one of her bills that day was payback for questions she’d asked about one of his bills.

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