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State Senator Apologizes For Controversial Tweet

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - State Rep. Matt Gaetz has apologized for a Twitter post that drew criticism about possible racial overtones.

The controversy started Thursday when Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, tweeted about a lawsuit filed by Senate Democrats challenging a House decision to adjourn the regular legislative session early.

"This lawsuit reads like it was researched and drafted by Sen Joyner and spell checked by Sen Bullard,'' Gaetz wrote, referring to Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami.

Joyner and Bullard are African-Americans.

The tweet caused an uproar that even led House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to say he didn't condone Gaetz's post.

"He is an agitator, yes, but not a racist," Crisafulli tweeted. "Please accept my apology to those offended."

But Joyner issued a lengthy statement Friday morning that described Gaetz's tweet as racist.

"And so while the speaker may try his best to walk back the motive of his member, he cannot walk back the 140 characters of Rep. Gaetz's racist barb,'' Joyner said in the statement. "His words are the kind I have fought against my entire life, the relic of days through which I lived and hope never to live through again."

In an apology Friday, Gaetz indicated his tweet was related to opposition to a health-coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

The state House and Senate are locked in a budget battle stemming, at least in part from a Senate proposal to use federal Medicaid money to expand coverage.

"My criticisms of ObamaCare Expansion and it's supporters are based solely on the facts,'' Gaetz tweeted Friday. "Deeply sorry if anyone read more into it than that."

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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