Mike Ertel had served as Florida's secretary of state for just 17 days when he resigned from his new post after photos surfaced showing him dressed up in blackface as a female African American Hurricane Katrina victim.
The Tallahassee Democrat, a newspaper based in Florida's capital, obtained photos of Ertel, who is white, in blackface and wearing lipstick, earrings, a bandana and a T-shirt that had "Katrina Victim" written on it during a private Halloween event 13 years ago. Ertel confirmed to the newspaper that he was the man in the photos.
After receiving the photos from the Tallahassee Democrat, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statement on Thursday saying he had accepted Ertel's resignation. Later in the day, DeSantis addressed the controversy during a press conference on hurricane relief in the city of Marianna.
"I think it's unfortunate. I thinks he's done a lot of good work. But, you know, at the same time, you know I've got to have an administration that's going to be focused on what matters to Floridians," he told reporters. "I don't want to get mired in side controversies."
The photos obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat were taken in 2005, when Ertel had recently started his tenure as Supervisor of Elections at Seminole County — a position he held until Jan. 8, when he was sworn in as Florida's secretary of state. The photos were also taken just months after Katrina struck Florida and Louisiana, devastating New Orleans and resulting in nearly 2,000 deaths.