Maine newspaper to America: We’re so sorry for giving you Gov. Paul LePage
Governors are a lot like offensive lineman in football — if they’re making news, it’s usually for doing something wrong.
That’s why Maine’s largest newspaper is apologizing, on behalf of its state, to the rest of the United States for electing Paul LePage, the headline-grabbing, scenery-chewing conservative governor.
“Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office,” the Portland Press Herald said in an editorial published Friday.
“He has a gruff exterior and blunt way of talking that some of us find refreshing, but he has shown again and again that he governs by grudge, and uses his power to beat up on people who cannot fight back,” the newspaper said.
LePage, an unabashed Donald Trump supporter, made news this week for repeating his claim that most drug dealers are black or Hispanic, and then he lashed out using homophobic slurs at a lawmaker who called him racist.
“I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you cocksucker,” LePage said in a voicemail he left Thursday with state Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook). “I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker. You — I need you to, just friggin’ — I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”
The outburst was sparked by criticism of LePage’s comments to a New York entrepreneur, who asked Wednesday during a town hall why Maine had not created a more welcoming environment for minorities.
The governor responded by saying he keeps a binder full of mugshots of drug suspects, and he said nearly 100 percent of them were black or Hispanic — a claim he’s made before.
“Let me tell you this, explain to you, I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state, now ever since I said that comment I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state,” LePage said. “I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Conn., the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said LePage’s statistics were inaccurate — but the governor doubled down on his claims the following day.
“Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers,” LePage told two reporters Thursday morning. “You ought to look into that!”
The governor then angrily stormed off, the Press Herald reported, but not before snorting, “You make me so sick,” over his shoulder.
“This was not a slip of the tongue,” the newspaper said in its editorial. “He has said the same thing before, denied saying it, and then said it again before the latest incident. This time, he offered it as proof that the racial divide in Maine was not his fault – that it was the fault of black and Hispanic criminals that he keeps track of in a three-ring binder on his desk.”
“LePage knows that his words are widely understood to mean that he thinks that the color of their skin makes some people more likely to commit crimes,” the editorial continued. “Rather than clarify or withdraw those statements, he repeats them.”
The editorial compared LePage to Trump, whom he has endorsed, and wistfully hoped this week’s incidents would cause him to reflect on his own actions.
“But he appears to be completely incapable of change,” the newspaper said. “He will probably blame the media again for any embarrassment he suffers, but everyone has heard the tape and knows what the governor said.”
“On the bright side, America, LePage isn’t going to be governor forever,” the editorial added.
On the down side, LePage is giving serious consideration to a run for the U.S. Senate — if he’s not tapped to serve some position in a possible Trump administration.