Jennifer Carroll, the most powerful black woman in Florida politics, finally gave in and issued a written apology last night after a week of mounting pressure from LGBT activists regarding a heterosexist comment she made.
"It is wrong and inexcusable to make a comment that hurts people, and that was not my intention,’’ Carroll wrote in a letter. "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.
"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,’’ she continued.
The controversy started with an accusation. A staffer working under Carroll opened her boss’ door and found the politician in a compromising position with her travel aide, who was allegedly in between Carroll’s legs.
When the lieutenant governor addressed the situation on television on July 14 she defended herself voicing the now-infamous quote: “Black women that look like me don’t engage in relationships like that,” Carroll told a Tampa station.
The apology comes in big part thanks to an effort spearheaded by Equality Florida, a local LGBT rights organization. Equality Florida’s Executive Director Nadine Smith wrote a letter voicing how harmful Carroll’s words had been to the lesbian community.
(Read Smith’s column “Dear Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll: Yes, you do look like a lesbian”)
Carroll’s comment also motivated Atlanta-based lesbian artist Doria Roberts to start the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsWhatALesbianLooksLike, which became a trending hashtag in the days following the inflammatory comments.
Earlier this week, the organization started an online petition drive to pressure the Republican politician to issue an apology. Before they reach their goal of 500 signatures, Smith received a call from Carroll herself.
This is what Smith recounts on a statement issued yesterday night by Equality Florida:
“I just got off the phone with Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll. Her Chief of Staff faxed her written apology and the Lt. Governor called to personally apologize for the words she used in refuting allegations brought by former staffer. In addition, she expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to communicate her commitment to treating everyone with respect and dignity.
“The Lt. Governor 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,” she wrote.
And added: “On behalf of a Equality Florida, I want to thank Lt. Governor Carroll for taking responsibility for her words and for responding to the harm those words inflicted Apologies by elected leaders for public mistakes are rare and it is to the Lt. Governor’s credit that she has taken this step.”
Read Carroll’s letter below: