Top Florida official resigns after photos surface in blackface, mocking Katrina survivors
Ron DeSantis, Florida’s new Republican governor, ran one of the most overtly racist campaigns in recent history prior to his narrow November 2018 victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
On Thursday, DeSantis lost a top cabinet official when his secretary of state, Michael Ertel, resigned just weeks after the governor appointed him to the powerful position. The reason: a state newspaper obtained 14-year-old photos of Ertel dressed in blackface and pretending to be a Hurricane Katrina survivor.
— Sean Rossman (@SeanRossman) January 24, 2019
At the time, Ertel was Seminole County’s supervisor of elections. He confirmed to the Tallahassee Democrat that he was the white man in photos the paper obtained. The paper described his attire in the 2005 Halloween party photos as “blackface and red lipstick, wearing earrings and a New Orleans Saints bandanna, and falsies under a purple T-shirt that had ‘Katrina Victim’ written on it.”
Reached for comment about the photos, Ertel told the paper, “There’s nothing I can say.” The governor’s office, which said it had not seen the photos previously, announced that it had accepted Ertel’s resignation on Thursday.
But while the racist images cost Ertel his job, DeSantis is set to serve as governor until 2022 at least, despite his own record. Last year, it was revealed that DeSantis was an administrator of a Tea Party Facebook group full of racist, Islamophobic, and misogynist posts. Hours after winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination, he made racist comments about his opponent, calling Gillum, who is black, “articulate” and warning he would “monkey [Florida] up.” He called criticism of those comments a “phony controversy” and refused to apologize, vowing never to “‘bow down to the altar of political correctness.”
DeSantis also took part in a paid trip to a racist group’s 2018 conference with Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnis — and spoke at four of the same group’s earlier conferences. Days after the 2018 conference, then-U.S. Rep. DeSantis officially announced his gubernatorial campaign.
During a campaign debate, Gillum noted DeSantis’ long record of racist behavior. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist,” he explained. “I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
Since winning the governorship, DeSantis attempted to slow-walk the state’s constitutionally mandated voting rights restoration for former felons. Ironically, it was Ertel who urged the state’s county elections supervisors to accept applications from all of the newly re-enfranchized ex-felons who applied.