Maine Gov. Paul LePage responded Friday morning to harsh criticism he’s received over his racially-charged comments at a town hall event earlier this week.
LePage, addressing a question about Maine’s heroin problem on Wednesday, blamed his state’s addiction woes on out-of-state drug dealers using fictional, yet suggestive, names to describe the offenders.
“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these types of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage said at the meeting, according to the Portland Press Herald. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”
LePage admitted he had made a mistake at a news conference Friday morning, but his explanation seemed only to reinforce the role race played in his comments. “Instead of saying ‘Maine women’ I said ‘white women’ and I’m not going to apologize to the Maine women for that,” he said. “Because if you go to Maine, you’ll see that we’re essentially 95% white.” So, if to LePage, “Maine women” equals “white women,” how is what he meant different than what he said?
Despite LePage’s efforts to downplay the racial tone of his comments, he drew sharp rebukes from observers. A statement from the Hillary Clinton campaign criticized the governor, saying, “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems.” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker weighed in as well. “Gov. Baker believes there is no place for such offensive, discriminatory language in political discourse,” said Billy Pittman, deputy communications director for Baker.
LePage was the first major elected official to endorse New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential bid, which Christie called an “incredible honor” at the time. The Christie campaign has yet to comment on LePage’s remarks. “By remaining silent, Gov. Christie condones LePage’s racist comments and his world view,” said Michael Tyler, the Democratic National Committee’s director of African American media in a written statement.
This isn’t the first time LePage has made headlines for controversial statements on race. Back in 2013, LePage was accused of saying that President Obama “hates white people,” a charge he denied.
On another occasion, LePage generated controversy by comparing the IRS to the Gestapo. “The Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated,” LePage said in a 2012 interview. “Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad — yet.”