At a town-hall meeting on Wednesday night, Republican governor Paul LePage of Maine told voters that the state’s drug problem was caused by troublemakers from out of town who come to Vacationland to sell heroin and impregnate white girls.
“These are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” the governor said. “These type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home.”
In case anyone was unclear just what demographic D-Money and Smoothie belong to, LePage went on to say: “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave. Which is the real sad thing, because then we have another issue that we have to deal with down the road.”
A spokesperson issued a statement to local news outlets insisting that the governor’s comment had nothing to do with race — a claim that would have sounded considerably less dishonest had LePage not specified that “Shifty” was coming around to impregnate white girls, specifically.
“Race is irrelevant,” his communications director Peter Steele said. “What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood, too. We need to stop the drug traffickers from coming into our state.”
On Friday, LePage said he made a "mistake," although he thought everyone was overreacting to his "one slip-up." "I was going impromptu and my brain didn’t catch up to my mouth," he said. The governor added, according to BuzzFeed, that he "didn’t say anything about black" and that he doesn’t "know if they’re white, black, Asian, I don’t know.”
"Instead of Maine women I said white women," he said. "I’m not going to apologize to the Maine women for that because if you go to Maine you will see we are essentially 95 percent white." LePage then complained about the reporters recording his explanation, according to NBC News. "If I was perfect, I would be a reporter," he said. "If you want to make it racist, go ahead and do what you want."
Back in 2010, when LePage was running for governor, the Bangor Daily News wrote:
His politically incorrect speech — refreshing for some Mainers, not so much for others — LePage told a reporter, can be attributed to his not having learned how to “speak out of both sides of my mouth,” as most career politicians do. “But I have to learn not to use street words,” he acknowledged, joking that his daughter, who works on his campaign, recently gave him a roll of duct tape for his mouth.
As the Huffington Post’s Mollie Reilly points out, LePage has taken a law-enforcement-only approach to the crisis, calling for a crackdown on out-of-state dealers and suggesting he might call in the National Guard to help. Maine legislators are weighing a bill that would provide funding for Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other law enforcement as well as for drug-treatment facilities, but the governor has threatened to veto it over its alleged favoritism toward the treatment programs it would fund.
LePage has endorsed New Jersey governor Chris Christie for the GOP presidential nomination. Christie’s spokesperson declined to comment when approached by the New York Times. However, the Clinton campaign was happy to weigh in. “Governor LePage’s comments tonight are not only offensive and hurtful but they try to cover up the very real epidemic of drug abuse facing people in his state and across the country,” Hillary for America’s Marlon Marshall said in a statement. “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems.”
This post has been updated.