Florida’s secretary of state resigns after blackface photo surfaces

(Reuters) – Florida’s newly appointed secretary of state resigned on Thursday after the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper published photos showing him cross-dressed and in blackface with a T-shirt reading “Katrina Victim” at a Halloween party 14 years ago.

Michael Ertel said in a two-line letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican, that he was resigning effective immediately. The letter was provided to Reuters by Sarah Revell, communications director for the Florida Department of State.

A spokeswoman for DeSantis said the governor had accepted Ertel’s resignation.

Ertel, 49, was named secretary of state by DeSantis, who was elected governor in November.

The newspaper published photos it said were taken at a 2005 Halloween party and show Ertel wearing blackface, earrings, a bandanna on his head and something in his purple T-shirt made to resemble breasts.

The T-shirt had the words “Katrina Victim” written on it, in apparent reference to the devastating hurricane that killed more than 1,800 people, caused some $125 billion in damage and devastated many predominantly African-American neighborhoods, the paper said.

Blackface was used in minstrel shows in the 19th and early 20th centuries featuring white performers portraying African-Americans, often in a degrading manner, and is considered to be racist and offensive.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by David Gregorio)