Florida secretary of state resigns after blackface photos surface

Republican served in position for 16 days before resigning over 2005 images

The Florida State Capitol building in the US

The Florida State Capitol building in the US

 

The newly installed official who oversees elections in the critical swing state of Florida resigned Thursday after a newspaper obtained photos of him dressed in blackface at a 2005 Halloween party.

The official, Michael Ertel, a Republican who had served as Florida’s secretary of state for only two weeks and two days, confirmed to the Tallahassee Democrat that he was the person in the photographs of a white man in a T-shirt with “Katrina Victim” written on it.

Along with blackface makeup, Ertel is wearing red lipstick, earrings and a New Orleans Saints bandanna in the photos.

They were taken two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, a city that is 60 per cent black.

The newspaper said it showed the photographs to Ertel last week, and sent them Thursday to Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, which quickly said it had accepted Ertel’s resignation.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Mr DeSantis said at a news conference on Thursday. “I think he regrets that whole thing 14, 15 years ago, but at the same time, I want people to be able to lead, and not have any of these things swirling around them. So I felt it was best just to move on.”

When shown the photographs, Ertel told the Democrat, “There’s nothing I can say.”

The photographs evoked an ugly history of white people blackening their faces to mock African-Americans in minstrel shows and movies.

That same nerve was struck by a photo widely shared on social media that showed Kentucky high school students dressed all in black and wearing black paint on their bodies and faces as they yelled at a black player from an opposing basketball team.

The school, Covington Catholic, is under a microscope after a confrontation between a group of its students and a Native American elder in Washington over the weekend.

And at the University of Oklahoma, students involved in filming and posting a video showing a woman applying blackface were expelled this week.– New York Times