Florida’s newly-appointed Republican Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned on Thursday afternoon after images of him attending a Halloween event in blackface more than a decade ago surfaced.
In the photographs, Ertel can be seen dressed in drag, wearing a blue shirt with fake breasts underneath. He had also darkened his face to a brown color, adding red lipstick to his lips. The theme of his costume, according to The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, was “Hurricane Katrina victim.”
“There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel said over the phone when he was confronted about the photographs by local media, before his resignation. He didn’t try to deny that it was him dressed in blackface.
Ertel dressed in the costume he made just a few months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged much of the Gulf Coast. According to CBS News reporting from that time, response to the storm was criticized as being too slow, especially when it came to helping people of color.
Ertel had been appointed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was just inaugurated into office after a contentious election this past November. DeSantis himself faced widespread criticism for remarks many suggested were racist, attacking his African American opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and urging voters not to “monkey this up” by electing him instead.
Michael Ertel, the newly appointed Secretary of State of Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has resigned after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago.https://t.co/LkJ3MKxuiN pic.twitter.com/HhIOs706gG
— Cory Provost (@coryprovost) January 24, 2019
On Thursday, DeSantis accepted the resignation of Ertel, expressing what seemed like sadness over the pictures that were released.
“It’s unfortunate. He’s done a lot of good work,” DeSantis said of Ertel.
DeSantis also seemed dismissive over the controversy. “I don’t want to get mired in side controversies,” he said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Blackface in America can be traced back to minstrel shows from the 19th century, when white actors would dress up and put dark makeup on their faces, acting as if they were African Americans, depicting those individuals in boorish and racist ways, according to reporting from Vox.
The continuation of blackface into the 20th century kept the tradition alive, although by the middle to the end of the century it was considered incredibly offensive. Still, periodically individuals in politics or celebrities make headlines for continuing the racist practice.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.