Florida Secretary of State resigns over racism scandal after mocking Hurricane Katrina victims

Junie Sihlangu
Jan 25, 2019
09:27 A.M.
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On December 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis named Michael Ertel as Ken Detzner’s replacement for Florida Secretary of State. Now Ertel has resigned from his new post because of a racism scandal.


Images of the new Secretary of State were found that showed him wearing blackface to mock Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.

On Thursday morning, Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel, 49, testified before a House committee about several lawsuits filed over the 2018 election. By mid-afternoon, he’d handed in his resignation.


Scandalous pictures of Ertel posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface were uncovered by the “Tallahassee Democrat.” The incident took place at a private Halloween party 14 years ago.

The images reached the Governor's Office shortly after noon on the same day and two hours later a statement was issued about Ertel’s resignation. The Governor’s Office said: “The governor accepted Secretary Ertel's resignation."


At a news conference on hurricane relief in Marianna, Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the resignation. Referring to Ertel he said, "It's unfortunate. I think he's done a lot of good work."

He then explained why he’d accepted the resignation saying:

"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."


DeSantis explained that he thought Ertel regretted what happened in 2005, "but at the same time I want people to be able to lead and not have these things swirling around them." The blackface images were taken eight months after Ertel was appointed Seminole County supervisor of elections.

It was also two months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In the pictures, the State Secretary was seen wearing blackface, red lipstick, big earrings, a New Orleans Saints bandanna, and fake breasts under a purple T-shirt that was written "Katrina Victim."


His email resignation that was sent around 2 p.m. read:

"I am submitting my resignation as Florida secretary of state effective immediately. It has been an honor to serve you and the voters of Florida."


Before the images came up, Ertel had a seemingly clean public career. He was known for increasing voter registration and making the elections office more accessible to the public.

On the same day, Department of Administration Commissioner Jonathan Quick tendered his resignation. The member of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Cabinet resigned amid accusations that he’d lied about his business background.

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