A Republican state senator from Miami was last night facing pressure to resign after he used the n-word to criticise several of his colleagues during an alcohol-fuelled rant in front of two black lawmakers.
Over drinks at a private club in downtown Tallahassee, State Senator Frank Artiles referred to six white senators as "n*****s" and spewed other obscenities while complaining about the chamber's GOP leadership, local media reported on Wednesday.
In response, the Florida Democratic Party called on him to resign, saying he lacked the judgment to remain in office.
Artiles apologised for the remarks in a statement provided to the Miami Herald.
"In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me," he said.
"There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologised to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely."
Artiles apologised on the floor of the Florida Senate yesterday, saying "no one deserves to be spoken to like that". "I stand up before all of you, every one of you, and with great humility, I ask for your forgiveness," he said.
Artiles reportedly fired off the slurs in a heated conversation on Tuesday with Democratic senators Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston, both of whom are black.
The three were talking at the members-only Governor's Club near the state capitol when Artiles called Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican, a vulgar word for female genitalia and said he had won his position because "six n*****s" had elected him, according to the Herald.
When Gibson and Thurston recoiled at the comment, Artiles tried to defend himself by saying he meant to use a different version of the n-word, ending with "as" rather than "ers", according to Politico. The word was acceptable, he reportedly told them, because he hailed from Hialeah, a largely Hispanic city in Miami-Dade County.
At one point, Politico reported, he also called Gibson an insulting word.
With that, Gibson stormed off, saying, "I'm done," Politico reported.
Thurston told the Herald he stayed and urged Artiles to apologise.
Eventually, he did, but it took the intervention of the Senate minority leader and another lawmaker, the Herald reported. "I'm very respectful to this process. I'm very respectful to everyone," Gibson told the Herald. "And the way he was characterising the vote - it wasn't nice."
Negron, the Senate President, reprimanded Artiles in a statement.
"I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner," he said. "Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators."
This isn't the first brush with controversy for Artiles, a Cuban American and former Marine. In 2015, he was accused of punching a college student in the face outside a Tallahassee bar, a claim he denied, as the Miami New Times has reported.
And in 2014, as the Herald reported on Wednesday, he was secretly recorded using an anti-Muslim slur at a polling place.