Florida state senator who called colleagues the N-word: ‘I am not a racist’

Florida state senator Frank Artiles, best known for punching a college student in the face and using anti-Muslim slurs, is facing calls from Democrats to step down after using the N-word in front of two black colleagues, one of whom he called a “bitch.”

Artiles, who is Cuban-American, was at the members-only Governors Club Monday night having drinks with with Democratic senators Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. At one point, Artiles began complaining about what he characterized as the failed leadership of Senate President Joe Negron, whom he called “a pussy.”

“Things are running the way they are because of the six niggers who put him there,” Artiles told Gibson and Thurston. Gibson said she was “stunned,” and Thurston, the leader of the legislative black caucus, told Politico “he couldn’t believe what he heard.” Upon viewing his colleagues’ reaction, Artiles reportedly told Gibson to stop acting “like a bitch,” and that his use of the word was okay because he was from Hialeah, a Hispanic working class city outside Miami. At this, Gibson said she was “done,” and left the establishment.

Thurston arranged a meeting the following morning so that Artiles might apologize, but the latter skipped it, saying he had “bills to present.” As word of the incident spread, and the black caucus announced it would meet Wednesday to decide whether to call for Artiles’ resignation, he seemed to realize he had made a mistake, and released a statement Tuesday.

“In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.” Artiles further commented on the matter in a series of text messages to Politico, saying, “I am not a racist.” He also clarified that the six Senate colleagues he was referring to were white, and defended his use of the N-word as “a slang term.” Mediaite interpreted this to mean Artiles was claiming he had used the word “niggas,” not its hard “-er” variant, which would still be pretty bad.

“Frank and alcohol don’t mix,” one Republican said.

[photo: AP]