Gov. Paul LePage speaks to reporters shortly after the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/ap

Paul LePage’s racially charged claims start to crumble

A month ago, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) touched off the latest in a series of racially charged controversies, and there’s fresh evidence that he wasn’t even honest about his offensive observations.

At a town-hall event, a businessman asked the Republican governor, “Given the rhetoric you put out there about people of color in Maine, calling them drug dealers et cetera, how can I bring a company here given the toxic environment you create?” LePage replied that he maintains “a three-ringed binder” featuring “every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state.” He added, “I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book … are black and Hispanic people” from out of state.

Today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, the contents of LePage’s three-ring binder were released to the public.
The 148-page document includes a variety of press releases, jail booking and courtroom photos of various individuals charged with trafficking crime in Maine since January. The photos in the book show men and women of a variety of races, and some pages of the binder include handwritten notes by LePage.

Of the 93 news and booking photos in the binder featuring people, 37 of them appear to be people who are either black or Hispanic, or about 40 percent of the photos in the binder, while 56, or about 60 percent, appear to be people who are white.
It’s worth emphasizing that these numbers are imprecise. As the Press Herald article explained, pages from LePage’s binder “were scanned or photocopied in black and white,” which complicates the analysis.

That said, the newspaper’s review of the governor’s materials suggest LePage got it backwards: whereas he insisted that “90-plus percent of those pictures” showed people of color, it appears that a majority of the accused are white.

In other words, LePage wasn’t just making an offensive argument; he was also wildly exaggerating the facts for reasons he has not yet explained.

Circling back to our previous coverage, let’s not forget how we got to this point.

As regular readers may recall, in January, LePage insisted Maine’s drug problem should be blamed on out-of-state 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 said. “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.”
That, of course, sounded pretty racist, but the governor’s spokesperson said in a statement at the time, “The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant.”
In fact, LePage soon after added at a press conference, “I never said anything about white or black traffickers…. What are they, black? I don’t know. I just read the names.”
LePage has since abandoned the pretense. Whereas race used to be “irrelevant” to the GOP governor, and he just “read the names” without any interest race or ethnicity, LePage now very specifically reviews photographs of arrested dealers, taking note of people of color. Why he makes this effort is another detail he hasn’t explained.
And why does he do this? Evidently, in the hopes of justifying his racially charged rhetoric.

When reporters asked the governor the next day about his comments, LePage replied, “Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that!”

By late August, the governor went so far as to refer to people of color as “the enemy” during a press briefing.

Just so we’re clear, even if a majority of suspected drug dealers featured in his binder were people of color, it wouldn’t justify LePage’s racism. That said, the fact that most of those included the governor’s binder appear to be white only adds insult to injury.

Maine, Paul LePage and Racism

Paul LePage's racially charged claims start to crumble