TALLAHASSEE — Her potentially-damaging remarks having caused a firestorm among LGBT rights groups demanding apology, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll apologized on Thursday for her “wrong and inexcusable” July 14 comments to a Tampa television station that “black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that.”
After a petition drive was launched last week by Equality Florida, Carroll sent a letter to the group’s executive director, Nadine Smith, apologizing for her choice of words, and their obvious impact over the past two-anda- half weeks.
“It is wrong and inexcusable to make a comment that hurts people, and that was not my intention,’’ Carroll wrote to Smith. “As a Christian, my faith guides me to love and respect all people. The false charges that have been lodged against me are no excuse for what I have said that may have been hurtful to members of your organization and to other Floridians.”
The charges which Carroll mentioned concern the allegations of her former aide Carletha Cole, who said—in court documents associated with a criminal case—that she caught Carroll and a former travel aide in a “compromising position.” Cole has been charged with giving an illegally-taped conversation to a reporter, and was fired from her job with the lieutenant governor’s office for “conduct unbecoming.”
In her apology, Carroll added, “Please know that I am committed to treating every person with the utmost courtesy, respect, and dignity, and I hope you will accept my heartfelt apology.”
Smith—a regular contributing writer to the Agenda “Q-Point” opinion/ editorial column—said she spoke to Carroll, and thanked her “for taking responsibility for her words.”
“Lt. Gov. Carroll expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to communicate her commitment to treating everyone with respect and dignity,’’ Smith said. “She invited Equality Florida to reach out to her office if she could be of assistance and I offered our organization as a resource as well.”
Last week, Smith condemned Carroll’s earlier comments in an editorial for TheGrio.com. “As a black lesbian from Florida, I personally felt the sting of Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll’s words,’’ Smith wrote. “Instead of simply denying the claims, she stereotyped black lesbians in order to deflect her own. With that one quick statement, Lt. Governor Carroll appealed to racial and homophobic stereotypes that do real harm.”
Smith commended Florida’s number two constitutional officer for admitting she was in error. “Apologies by elected leaders for public mistakes are rare, and it is to the lieutenant governor’s credit that she has taken this step. In Florida, which has no statewide legal protections from discrimination for [LGBT] residents, the words of our elected leaders matter a great deal,’’ Smith added.