AP

There is a growing chorus of calls for Florida State Senator Frank Artiles to step down after reports of a racist rant about fellow Republicans went public this week.

Artiles, whose district includes parts of Miami-Dade county, reportedly complained to several black lawmakers about other state GOP officials while drinking at the members-only Governors Club near the state capitol. At one point, Artiles reportedly claimed that that “six niggers” within the GOP leadership helped elevate Senate president and fellow Republican Joe Negron to power. As the Miami Herald notes, there are no black Republicans in the Florida State Senate, and none of the black Democrats backed Negron’s bid.

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Artiles is also alleged to have called Negron a “pussy” and referred to Democratic State Senator Audrey Gibson as “this fucking asshole” and “this bitch.” But it’s his use of the racial epithet—and his explanation for using it—that has grabbed the most attention.

“I said, ‘Dude, did you say ‘niggers?’” State Senator Perry Thurston (D–Ft. Lauderdale), who was with Artiles when the comments were made, recalled to the Herald.

“‘No,” Thurston claimed Artiles answered. “I said ‘niggas,’”

“It was a slang term, and I am not a racist,” Artiles explained to Politico.

Artiles later offered a lengthier apology to the Herald, saying: “In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me. There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.”

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Nevertheless, the comments have prompted calls for his resignation from state Democrats.

Republicans, however, have been less forceful in their condemnation of Artiles remarks.

“[Whether to resign is] a decision he’s going to have to make,” state Republican Party Chairman Blaise Ingoglia told Politico. “It’s not my job as chair to say what somebody should or should not do. That is a personal decision between him and the constituents he represents.”