Mike Ertel apologizes for blackface photos that cost him Secretary of State job

In first public statement, Ertel says photos were 'opportunity for revenge'

By Anna Johnson - Digital Journalist

Credit: Seminole County Supervisor of Elections website

In his first public statement since being resigning as Florida Secretary of State, Michael Ertel apologized for the blackface photos that cost him his job.

"I'm a better man than I was fourteen years ago," Ertel said in a statement on his personal Facebook page. "Yet over the past week I have been rightfully apologizing for something I did Halloween night, 2005."

Ertel, who served as the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections for 14 years, resigned from his new role in Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration on Jan. 24. The resignation came swiftly after the Tallahassee Democrat published pictures of Ertel in blackface, costumed as a "Hurricane Katrina victim."

DeSantis accepted Ertel's resignation just 16 days after he had been sworn in as Secretary of State. DeSantis has since named circuit judge Laurel Lee as Ertel's successor. 

The two pictures -- which depict Ertel with darkened skin, clothed in a New Orleans Saints bandanna, large fake breasts and shirt labeled "Hurricane Katrina victim" -- were taken 14 years ago, during Ertel's first term as an elected official.

In his facebook post, Ertel confirmed that the pictures, which were taken two months after Hurricane Katrina killed over 1,800 people, were of him. He credits the timing of their reveal as playing into an unnamed person's revenge.

"I did something stupid fourteen years ago, which presented someone from my past with an opportunity for revenge," Ertel said. "But the opportunity wasn't just for them. Because while public revenge may be sweet for them, my private redemption, new family, and blessed life have been sweeter."

Ertel, a Republican, was re-elected in Seminole County four times. He now looks forward to his "next adventure" as a private citizen.

"Very few could have imagined a homeless teenager would achieve any branch of success, much less be asked to lead the Department of State for our nation’s third largest state," he said. "But in our country, the American Dream is a reality."

The apology comes on the heels of both Virginia and federal legislators on both sides of the aisle calling for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over alleged blackface photos.

Northam, a Democrat, first confirmed that he was one of two pictured in his 1984 college yearbook photo of a man in blackface and a person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. He has since recanted the statement and refused to resign, though he did admit to donning blackface for a Michael Jackson dance competition at another time.

Read Ertel's full statement below:

"I'm a better man than I was fourteen years ago.  Yet over the past week I have been rightfully apologizing for something I did Halloween night, 2005.

For those who have not received a personal apology yet — I’m sorry.

I did something stupid fourteen years ago, which presented someone from my past with an opportunity for revenge.  But the opportunity wasn't just for them. Because while public revenge may be sweet for them, my private redemption, new family, and blessed life have been sweeter.

Regardless of the circumstances which ended my public role, I’m a better private citizen for having served my fellow countrymen, first in the military, then in elected office, and most recently as Secretary of State.

Very few could have imagined a homeless teenager would achieve any branch of success, much less be asked to lead the Department of State for our nation’s third largest state.  But in our country, the American Dream is a reality.

I now look forward to my next adventure, and my next opportunity to — once again — overcome the odds."

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