Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel has been forced to resign in disgrace just weeks after taking office after photographs of him dressed as a ‘Hurricane Katrina victim’, in both blackface and in drag, appeared online.
The offending photo was taken in 2005, just two months after Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,836 people and caused a rough total of $125 billion of damage, devastated New Orleans. Ertel’s face is painted black and he is wearing red lipstick, earrings, fake breasts, a New Orleans Saints bandana, and purple T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Katrina Victim.”
Ertel, 49, was appointed to the office of Secretary of State by Governor Ron DeSantis, an ardent Trump supporter who won a bitter and hard-fought victory to become governor. The campaign was marred by racist robocalls made against African-American democratic candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
While DeSantis’ campaign distanced itself from the white supremacist group found ultimately responsible for the automated calls, the entire campaign left residents divided. DeSantis also made controversial remarks during the campaign in which he urged voters not to “monkey this up.”
Ertel’s blackface photos were obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat and sent to DeSantis’ office on January 23.
“The governor accepted Secretary Ertel’s resignation,” the Governor’s Office said.
“It’s unfortunate. I think he’s done a lot of good work,” DeSantis said later on Thursday.
I don’t want to get mired into kind of side controversies, and so I felt it was best to just accept the resignation and move on.
When questioned by the Tallahassee Democrat about the images, Ertel was lost for words.
“There’s nothing I can say,” he said.
The photos are apparently the only blemish on an otherwise successful career in public office, with Ertel increasing voter registration and improving overall access to the elections office.
Ertel has a background in media relations, providing expertise in the aftermath of the 2004 Florida hurricanes for Visit Florida. He previously served in a PR role for the US Army, working during the 1992 LA riots and during US intervention in Macedonia and Bosnia.
Despite this, his all-advised costume choice has incurred the wrath of Twitter users.
What mysterious allure of blackface makes it so tempting to white people that they’re willing to risk career, family and social acceptance in order to do ithttps://t.co/iPV3TSmI1U
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) January 24, 2019
Some people consider me a deplorable, however, what #Ertel did was ACTUALLY deplorable. And actually racist. and purposefully hateful. It’s a shame that some lefties have completely confused and bastardized these definitions. Glad he resigned so we can #MAGA
— Poison Ivy 🏝 (@TreeSeeder) January 25, 2019
A small few did defend the offensive costume, however.
Little question to African Americans… If I can’t disguise myself as a black person why should I accept a black Santa Claus? It is so stupid… Poor Michael #Ertel. I don’t share his ideas but I do feel bad that he had to resign FOR A FUCKING HALLOWEEN COSTUME FROM 14 YEARS AGO!
— Nilgoshka (@Nilgoshka) January 25, 2019
— Patti Dennis (@justonepatriot) January 24, 2019
This isn’t the first time the issue of blackface has emerged in US public life. Former Fox and MSNBC host Megyn Kelly sparked a tidal wave of backlash for questioning whether the practice of dressing in blackface was indeed racist at all.
“What is racist?” Kelly said in late 2018, just days before her unceremonious (though lucrative) firing from her new network, NBC. “You truly do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween.”
Like this story? Share it with a friend!