World / Politics

Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel quits after 2005 blackface photos emerge

Bloomberg

Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel has resigned after photos emerged Thursday that reportedly show him at a Halloween party masquerading in blackface as a victim of Hurricane Katrina.

Ertel’s resignation is effective immediately, spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in an email. The governor’s office confirmed that it had accepted the resignation.

The Tallahassee Democrat said it obtained the photos of Ertel, now 49, from 2005 posing in blackface at a gathering a few months after the storm devastated New Orleans. He is pictured wearing lipstick, fake breasts under a blue T-shirt and dangling earrings. The newspaper said the resignation came after it shared the photographs with the office of the governor, who appointed him to the position. The photos were reportedly taken after Ertel had been named Seminole County supervisor of elections.

The news cast a pall on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new administration after a quick start that had begun to win him bipartisan plaudits, including for steps taken on the environment and medical marijuana.

Asked if Ertel had anything to say on his own behalf, his office simply confirmed the resignation. He told the Democrat: “There’s nothing I can say.”

In its response, the governor’s office enclosed a copy of a two-sentence resignation email that Ertel apparently sent to DeSantis at 1:59 p.m. “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.”

The job includes oversight of elections, a critical responsibility in America’s largest swing state, where the most recent midterm voting prompted a massive and closely scrutinized recount.