Miami Sen. Dwight Bullard Targeted by GOP Rep's Racist Tweet

You probably thought the Florida House was done embarrassing itself for the year. After all, house Republicans grabbed their ball and went home Tuesday, canceling the rest of the session rather than dealing with an impasse with the senate over Medicaid. But it's never wise to underestimate Florida GOP representatives' pure will to bring shame upon themselves.

Enter Rep. Matt Gaetz, a powerful Republican from the Panhandle. With no bills to shepherd through, Gaetz had plenty of time yesterday to craft a tweet aimed at Miami Sen. Dwight Bullard that critics quickly branded racist and left fellow senators demanding an apology.

Here's the tweet, which Gaetz has yet to delete or back away from:
To get the criticism, some backstory is in order: Gaetz is making fun of a petition filed by senate Democrats asking the courts whether the GOP's early adjournment of the session was legal. The filing included a couple of typos, which Gaetz latched onto to mock its authors.

Fair enough. Except Gaetz decided to make fun of Sen. Arthenia Joyner and Bullard, who are both black. Though Joyner, as senate minority leader, played a visible role in the petition, Bullard didn't. Indeed, two white senators — Sen. Darren Soto and Maria Sachs — actually did most of the work crafting the thing.

So why target Bullard by suggesting he can't spell? Critics thought it was pretty clear.
As criticism mounted, senators began joining the fray and demanding an apology from Gaetz:
So far, though, Gaetz has remained steadfast that his Twitter humor was legit:
After hours of building outrage on Twitter, Bullard himself weighed in last night — taking the high road by suggesting a bill written by a civil rights "icon" like Joyner and spell-checked by a high-school teacher like Bullard wouldn't be the worst way to craft a bill: 
Gaetz could still face more blowback over the tweet. The National Bar Association is looking into the matter, the Florida Times Union reports, and even Gaetz's dad — ex-senate president Don Gaetz — may try to get him to apologize.

Update: Gaetz has kinda apologized with a "sorry if you were offended" message this morning. And amazingly for a guy who started this whole thing by making fun of typos, it includes an incorrect use of "it's."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink