Artiles resigns amid fallout from racial slur

State senator from South Florida says he needs time for 'reflection and growth'

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A state senator from South Florida resigned Friday in the fallout after he used a racial slur among colleagues.

State Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, sent a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron.

"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. "I am responsible and I am accountable and, effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida state Senate. It's clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth."

Artiles used a variation of the "n-word" during a Monday night conversation with Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, at the Governors Club in Tallahassee, not far from the state Capitol.

Thurston provided Local 10 News with a firsthand account of the conversation during a satellite interview Friday with "This Week in South Florida" co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg.

The senator said Artiles was having a "normal conversation" with Gibson about some bills that had come before several committees. Thurston said he left the table and returned a short time later.

"That's when Sen. Gibson said to me that he had just called her an f-ing a-hole," Thurston said.

Thurston said he asked Artiles to apologize, and Artiles did. Thurston said the conversation returned to the legislation.

Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, were in attendance when Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, apologized for his remarks.

"At that point, he loses it and starts calling the Senate president the 'p-word' over and over," Thurston said. "And he says it, and then he ends that with, 'The only reason he's in the leadership as the president is because six 'n-words' who voted him into office.'"

Thurston said Artiles tried to clarify his remark.

"He says, 'No, you said the 'n-word' with an 'ER.' I said the 'n-word' with an 'A,'" Thurston said. "So I said to him, 'Do you really think that makes any difference?'"

Thurston, who filed a formal complaint Wednesday on behalf of the legislative black caucus, wrote that Artiles' "egregious comments" were a violation of Senate rules and justify his expulsion. The letter was addressed to Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who serves as chair of the Senate Rules Committee. She said no further action is necessary now that Artiles has resigned.

Artiles apologized Wednesday morning on the Senate floor.

Negron said Friday that Artiles "made the right decision."

Artiles' resignation was an about-face for the senator, who previously said he had no intention of leaving office.

"We regret that this action was necessary, but we believe it was the right action to take," Thurston said in a statement. "It was surely a difficult decision for the senator to make, but we believe he followed his conscience and made the right choice."

Gibson also released a statement, thanking everyone "for their outpouring of support."

"This has been an ordeal that no one should have to endure," Gibson said. "I wish him well in all of his endeavors."

For the second day in a row, protesters gathered in Artiles' district, this time taking credit for the recent turn of events.

"We weren't asking for the resignation of Sen. Artiles," the Rev. Alphonso Jackson Sr. said. "We were demanding the resignation."

Artiles was elected to his seat in November. He previously served in the state House from 2010 to 2016.

A special election will be held to replace Artiles.

About the Authors:

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.