Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), already facing possible impeachment in an abuse-of-power scandal, is no stranger to controversies involving race. Early on in his term, for example, the Republican governor got in a dispute with the Maine NAACP over his decision to skip events honoring Martin Luther King. In reference to the civil-rights group, LePage said, “Tell them to kiss my butt.”
Two years later, according to Republican attendees to a LePage gathering, the far-right governor complained that President Obama doesn’t emphasize his biracial heritage because the president “hates white people.” He later denied having made the comments.
This week, however, LePage went just a little further still. The Portland Press Herald reported on comments the governor made at a town-hall meeting on Wednesday night.
About 30 minutes into the meeting, which was rebroadcast Thursday night, LePage responded to a question about how he was tackling substance abuse in Maine. He began talking about how much of the heroin is coming into Maine from out-of-state drug dealers.“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.”
By way of a defense, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the governor’s spokesperson said in a statement to reporters, “The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant.”
Look, I feel bad for anyone who has to defend Paul LePage’s rhetoric; it must be an unpleasant and incredibly difficult job.
But if the governor’s office expects to be taken seriously, pretending LePage wasn’t making comments about race only makes matters worse.
On camera, and in front of a large group of people, the governor said “D-Money” is coming into his state from elsewhere – Maine’s population is over 95% white – selling heroin, and impregnating “young, white” girls.
Are we really supposed to believe LePage’s unscripted comments had nothing to do with race?
The governor’s rhetoric, not surprisingly, generated national attention quite quickly, and last night, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign issued a statement condemning the remarks.
“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. “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems…. Sadly, Governor LePage’s comments aren’t too dissimilar from the divisive, misleading and hateful rhetoric we’re seeing from Republicans across the country these days.”