Democratic Party Condemns Miami Beach Commissioner for "Conspiracist Screeds"

Miami Beach City Commissioner Ricky Arriola
Miami Beach City Commissioner Ricky Arriola Photo by City of Miami Beach Government
Update, 2:50 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a response from Commissioner Ricky Arriola.

Ever since he started spitballing about deliberately infecting first responders with the coronavirus last spring, Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola has been one to watch on social media.

In the past year, Arriola has boosted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 from less-than-credible websites while railing against the media, local and federal government officials, and anyone else he deemed "Team Doomsday." After the commissioner engaged in a particularly heated Twitter spat with documentary filmmaker Billy Corben last month, leaders of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party threatened to take action against Arriola, a registered Democrat.

Last night, the party made good on that promise — with a vote of 60 to one, the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee called on Arriola to resign from his post.

At a virtual meeting held on Zoom, party chair Steve Simeonidis called Arriola "a clear example of what a bad Democrat looks like."

"I think it's incumbent on us to show that one of the differences between our party and the other party is that we are willing to hold our members to account," he said.

The Democratic Executive Committee is the governing body of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County. The resolution approved by the voting members is an official document stating that the party disavows Arriola's comments. It also bars Arriola from joining party leadership at the local level unless members vote to lift the ban in the future.

The resolution, which was introduced by state committeeman William Byatt, says Arriola's "conspiracist screeds have often veered into racist and classist bigotry." Byatt and others accused Arriola of anti-Semitism after he referred to Corben as "Billy Cohen," the documentarian's birth name. Arriola also angered local Democrats by comparing looting at Black Lives Matter protests to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

At yesterday's meeting, Byatt said that Arriola should be held accountable for his "open bigotry and incredible rudeness."

"For the past year, his public persona has been the absolute opposite of what we stand for," Byatt said. "He is an embarrassment to our communities and to our party."

Another party member, Nucleus Shelton, said Arriola's statements made it clear he is no longer in alignment with the party's values.

"At this point, it's the call-out season for Democrats in name only," Shelton said. "I'm asking myself, fundamentally, what side are you on?"

Reached by New Times, Arriola said the censure "is a perfect example of what's wrong with the Democratic Party. They major in minor things."

"This is like being censured by a knitting club. This organization only knows how to lose elections, as evidenced by their results this past November," he said in an email. "No elected official takes them seriously."

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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.