Pressure is mounting on a Republican state senator from Miami to resign after he used a slew of racially-charged slurs. Frank Artiles' expletive-laden outburst took place over drinks with Democratic senators Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston on 17 April at a members-only club.
According to the Miami Herald, Artiles approached Gibson to let her know the series of questions he had asked regarding one of her bills earlier in the day was in retaliation to her questioning one of his.
During the conversation, Gibson said Artiles referred to her as a "f*cking asshole" and a "bitch".
Venting his fury over the leadership of Senate President Joe Negron, Artiles said his rise was down to "the six ni**ers" who had elected them. The senators Artiles was referring to are all white, Politico reported.
Thurston challenged him on the outburst, saying: "Excuse me? "Did you just say 'ni**ers?' Am I hearing that right?"
Artiles replied: "No." He added: "I said 'ni**as.'" He went on to say it was not a problem as he hails from Hialeah, a largely Hispanic city located in Miami-Dade County.
In language reminiscent of US President Donald Trump, the Florida senator also called Negron a "pussy".
As scrutiny over Artiles' conduct intensified, he was reported to the GOP leadership and questions started pouring in. He later issued a statement addressing the matter.
"In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me," said Artiles. "There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologised to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely."
Soon after, Negron said he was "appalled" by Artiles' behaviour and confirmed that he would apologise to Gibson on the Senate floor on 19 April.
In a statement, Negron said: "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.
"Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow's sitting, during which he intends to formally apologise to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor."
However, Artiles also defended himself against accusations of bigotry by claiming there is a difference between "ni**ers" and "ni**as" and said he used the term to refer to white colleagues.
"It was a slang term, and I am not a racist," he told Politico Florida in a text message. "I am not a racist."