Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned on Thursday after photos surfaced of him dressed up at a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a Halloween party in 2005.
The issue is particularly sensitive given the discussion surrounding race in the aftermath of Katrina. At least 1,000 people died in the devastating hurricane, and “poor, mostly black New Orleans residents” were disproportionally affected. Many Black survivors also alleged that racism played a role in the slow response time. In a national survey conducted a month after the disaster, about two-thirds of African Americans said the response would’ve been faster if “most of the victims had been white.”
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Ertel, then a Seminole County Supervisor of Election, dressed up wearing blackface, red lipstick, and a t-shirt that read “Katrina victim” two months after the hurricane. The photo surfaced online on Thursday, just hours after he had testified before a House committee about the 2018 election. He admitted to the Democrat that it was indeed him in the photo. He did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Ertel was appointed secretary of state by newly elected Gov. Ron DeSantis just weeks ago. By Thursday afternoon, he sent in his resignation, according to the Democrat, and the governor’s office accepted it.