What was supposed to be the last day of the regular legislative session in Tallahassee is turning into a very bad one for Matt Gaetz.
The House Republican from Fort Walton Beach set off a firestorm on Thursday afternoon, after he tweeted out a comment regarding a petition to the Florida Supreme Court filed by Senate Democrats that challenges the unilateral adjournment by the state House earlier this week.
Referring to some typos in the document, Gaetz tweeted, “This lawsuit reads like it was researched and drafted by Sen. Joyner … and spell-checked by Sen. Bullard,” Gaetz tweeted, referring to Tampa Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner and Cutler Bay state Sen. Dwight Bullard, both of whom are black.
On Friday morning, the only black legislator in the Republican caucus, Pensacola state Rep. Mike Hill, condemned his GOP colleague’s abrasive remark.
“While I strongly disagree with the lawsuit filed by Senate Democrats attempting to impose Obamacare expansion on the citizens of Florida, I cannot abide the divisive comments made by Rep. Gaetz and urge him to immediately apologize for his distasteful choice of words,” Hill wrote in a statement. “While we may differ in our views and approach with those now trying to impose Obamacare on our chamber through the courts, there is absolutely no place in our Party, state or nation for singling out people of color and suggesting they are inferior in their professional achievements. These types of antiquated insinuations do not bring people together in a way that represents the progress and greatness of our nation.”
Hill went on to praise House Speaker Steve Crisafulli for condemning Gaetz’s tweet, saying, “It’s an honor to serve under such a principled leader.”
On Thursday Crisafulli tweeted, “I don’t condone the Tweet by @MattGaetz. He is an agitator, yes, but not a racist. Please accept my apology to those offended.”
The first Republican to respond was Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala, who called the tweet “absolutely disgraceful for a public official to say!”
Sen. Joyner also responded on Friday morning, where she called Gaetz’s comment a “racist barb.”
“His words are the kind I have fought against my entire life, the relic of days through which I lived and hope never to live through again,” Joyner wrote.