Don Gaetz apologizes for ‘hanging’ comment

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Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, apologized Friday for using hanging imagery in reference to lawsuits challenging new maps for legislative and congressional districts approved Thursday by the Senate, reports the News Service of Florida. “My father used to say, ‘Some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope,'” Gaetz said Thursday, referring to his belief that some groups planned to sue no matter what maps the Legislature drew. On Friday, Gaetz apologized after three black lawmakers angrily said the remarks were insensitive. “I’m sorry if any offense was taken,” Gaetz said. “Those who know me and those who work with me are well aware that no offense was meant.” Among those calling for Gaetz to apologize was Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “The use of his analogy reflects back on an extremely violent period in our country’s and our state’s history,” Joyner said Friday. “And it shows an insensitivity on the part of the Senator about the hard-fought passage of Blacks from slaves to citizens.” The remark also brought a sharp response from two high-ranking black House Democrats. “The senator’s comment is especially appalling given that it is made in connection to the issue of redistricting, in which there is considerable history of racial minorities being deprived of adequate representation,” said Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, slated to become the House’s top Democrat later this year. Rep. Mia Jones, a Jacksonville Democrat who chairs the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, also slammed Gaetz. “Senator Gaetz’ use of such highly charged and disturbing language has absolutely no place in this important discussion about the future of Florida,” she said.

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