A Florida state representative has apologized for using an anti-gay slur to describe one of his Democratic primary opponents.
State Rep. Al Jacquet (D-Riviera Beach) came under fire after posting an hourlong video on his personal Facebook page last week. In that video, he referred to Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy, who’s challenging him in the Aug. 18 primary, as a “batty boy” — an anti-gay slur commonly used in Caribbean nations. Jacquet was born in St. Maartens, a Caribbean island.
Much of the video, first reported by Florida Politics, contains Jacquet ranting about a story in the Palm Beach Post, titled “Where is Al Jacquet?” focusing on his lack of a district office, questions surrounding how he’s spent his House allowance, and the state’s unsuccessful efforts to send notice of election violations to Jacquet’s listed home address.
“Where I’m at? I’m running in 2020, baby. Re-election, 100 percent. Where you at?” Jacquet says in the video. “I hear they got ‘Sleepy Hardy.’ That’s all good. That’s the union boy. The batty boy union boy.”
Hardy said he first heard about the video on Monday when someone called him and told him to watch it.
“I have hard that term slung around before and I knew what it meant immediately,” Hardy told the Post. “It appalled me that a member of the Florida House of Representatives and member of the Florida Democratic Party, which for years has stood up for LGBTQ rights, would use that kind of language.”
Hardy added that the slur “was misdirected because I am not gay, but it was still personal for me because I was raised in a same-sex household. I have two mothers and I know how hurtful those types of slurs can be. I don’t think that language represents his constituents. That has no place in politics and it certainly has no places in the Legislature of America’s third-largest state.”
Jacquet’s comments were also criticized by other lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates and allies.
“As a colleague, friend, and fraternity brother to Representative Jacquet, it is my hope that he would understand the impact of what he said,” Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-Hollywood), the first openly LGBTQ black person elected to the Florida Legislature, said. “There is no room for discrimination of any kind, and I know Rep. Jacquet to be better than the language he used. I call on him to apologize, and hope that moving forward he understands that our words matter.”
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council said it received more than a dozen emails from people offended by Jacquet’s use of the slur.
“Jacquet’s words are reprehensible,” retired Judge Rand Hoch, president of the Human Rights Council, said in a statement. “Al Jacquet must immediately and genuinely apologize to Omari Hardy, the LGBTQ community, his colleagues in the Legislature, and his constituents. If he fails to do so, at the very least, Jacquet should be censured by the Florida House of Representatives — if not removed from office.”
Jacquet later issued a brief apology, saying in a statement: “In the heat of the moment, I said something I should not have said. I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.”
But Hardy rejected the argument, saying: “This wasn’t a real apology, not that I expected him to do it. This was an attempt to, in my opinion, to cover up the ugliness in himself that he revealed on Friday.”
He said that Jacquet should have called him directly if he meant to offer a sincere apology, saying the representative has his cell number.
“He hasn’t reached out to me at all. I don’t know to whom he was apologizing,” Hardy said. “When you hurt someone you [personally] apologize to them.
“This was not [a] genuine and sincere apology,” Hardy added. “This was damage control, public relations control.”
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