Well, it's happened once again, another politician has been taken down by ghosts from their past. But this time, there's no sex scandal, money laundering, or shady business deals. Instead, it's just old fashioned racism. And not just any racism, this time it also includes poking fun at one of the greatest natural disasters in our nation's history combined with one of the most deplorable examples of blackface in recent memory.
This probably won't come as a surprise to anyone, but this story comes to us from Florida. But unlike most "Florida Man" stories coming out of the Sunshine State, this isn't just any normal guy. No, in fact, this was a high-ranking official within the Florida Republican Party.
Enter (former) Florida Secretary of State Mike Ertel:
Ertel resigned from his position shortly after the Tallahassee Democrat released photos from 2005 depicting the Republican politician wearing black face paint, red lipstick, a New Orleans Saints bandana, and a shirt reading "Katrina Victim" just two months after the hurricane wreaked havoc on the Louisiana and Mississippi coast.
"I am submitting my resignation as Florida secretary of state effective immediately," he wrote in an email. "It has been an honor to serve you and the voters of Florida."
Ertel was appointed as Florida's Secretary of State in late December 2018 after a long career in public relations followed by years in public office. The Tallahassee Democrat reported that before his time in public office, Ertel provided post-disaster media relations for Visit Florida after multiple hurricanes hit the state in 2004. While in office, Ertel was often recognized for his dedication to expanding voting rights throughout the state and was even given the Martin Luther King Jr. Award by the city of Longwood.
This is what makes Ertel's actions in 2005 that much worse. You would think that a man who dedicated so much of his time and effort to helping Florida's minority population have more rights and access to voting booths would know better than to do something like this:
People are oft to make mistakes and elected officials with a seemingly clean record are not immune to that. But, and a big but here, this does not excuse Ertel for dressing up as a victim of Hurricane Katrina in blackface. And if people want to say something along the lines of, "But... that was like 14 years ago, so much has changed," the fact remains the same that Ertel knew what he was doing.
Ertel knew what he was doing when he put on the black face paint, the red lipstick, the Saints bandana, fake boobs, and painted his shirt to read, "Katrina Victim." He, especially, knew the hell that hurricane survivors go through. He, especially, knew the negative connotation of blackface. He, especially, with his experience in public relations and public office, knew this would eventually come back to haunt him one day.
And it did. And now, Ertel is just another politician who has been taken down because he made the terrible decision to wear a tasteless Halloween costume. And now, he has to pay for it.
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