Republican Paul LePage has been called a racist for his remarks, but his communications director claims he was "not making comments about race."
Maine Governor Paul LePage is no stranger to controversy, which is a nice way of saying he can be a bit of an asshole sometimes. The Republican and Tea Party favorite has said that a state Democratic politician "claims to be for the people but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," joked about blowing up a Maine newspaper, and called the IRS "the new Gestapo." He also got caught on tape talking about how he might like to punch a reporter, and, while touting the safety of BPA, a chemical found in lots of plastic products that scientists claim is dangerous, said that "the worst case is some women may have little beards."
So on one hand, it's not exactly surprising that the Portland Press Herald reported Thursday night that LePage got caught saying some rather nasty and racially-tinged things about drug dealers at a town hall meeting a night earlier. On the other hand, hoo boy:
"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 told a large crowd. "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."
New England has been grappling with the problem of heroin being imported into the region for some time, but worrying about presumably black dealers with comical nicknames descending on Maine's "young white girls" and putting a baby in them struck many as bizarre and gross. Hillary Clinton's campaign called LePage's remarks a "racist rant" in a statement, and the Press Herald reported that the Democratic National Committee was calling on Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, a LePage ally, to denounce him for his "racist comments and his world view."
LePage's communications director has said that "the Governor is not making comments about race," and LePage is holding a press conference Friday morning where he'll presumably clarify that he wants to protect Maine's white girls against drug dealers of all races, creeds, and nicknames.
UPDATE: At the press conference, LePage apologized, saying, "I was going impromptu, and my brain didn't catch up to my mouth. Instead of 'Maine women,' I said 'white women.'" He also took a swipe at the reporters who showed up: "I probably couldn't get so many of you here without saying something foolish."