After six years in office, it takes a lot for Paul LePage to surprise. After all, the Maine governor is the guy who compared the IRS to the Gestapo, said President Obama hates white people, and appointed himself education commissioner.
Nonetheless, it’s been a banner week for the Republican.
Back in January, LePage blamed his state’s heroin epidemic on “guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” who “come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.” Despite the obvious racial message, LePage insisted he had not intended to bring race into the matter, adding (somewhat contradictorily), “I tried to explain that Maine is essentially all white. I should have said ‘Maine women.’”
Now LePage has changed his tune: It really is about race.
“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 Wednesday at a public forum in North Berwick. “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, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
LePage also said—again, despite a plain reading—that he was really only referring to the origin point for narcotics, not the race of the traffickers. “Nobody wants to give you the real story, but the fact of the matter is, sir, I am not a racist,” he said.
As I noted at the time of LePage’s original comments in January, the publicly available evidence did not support LePage’s idea that minorities were behind the heroin epidemic. Several recent arrests of dealers at the time had involved predominantly or exclusively white people, and a 2003 survey from the National Drug Intelligence Center suggested that most heroin entering Maine actually came from Massachusetts, via Caucasian traffickers. The epidemic has largely affected white people as well.
Naturally, reporters were interested to get their hands on LePage’s binder full of minorities. On Thursday, they asked the governor for it. He refused and stomped off. “Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that!” he said. “You make me so sick!”
The Portland Press Herald has filed a public-records request for the binder.
One of LePage’s critics was Democratic state Representative Drew Gattine. Asked about the governor’s comments, he said, “Obviously that message is upsetting, inappropriate and uncalled for. It’s hard to believe it’s from the governor of the state of Maine, but again, we need to stay focused on the drug problem we are facing here in Maine and cannot allow this story to be about the governor’s inappropriate and vulgar behaviors.”
LePage, enraged, called Gattine up and left a voicemail in which he called the legislator a “socialist cocksucker” and “son of a bitch.” He accused Gattine of calling him a racist—Gattine says he did not—and demanded he prove the accusation. “I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you,” he said.
Gattine obliged. You can listen here:
Separately, LePage spoke wistfully about shooting Gattine in an old-school test of honor:
I wish it were 1825. And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be [Alexander] Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in the Legislature to help move the state forward.
On Friday, LePage tried to make amends, sort of. He said he was enraged at the idea that someone had called him a racist and used the worst language he could think of.
“I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state,” he said. “Legislators like Gattine would rather be politically correct and protect ruthless drug dealers than work with me to stop this crisis that is killing five Mainers a week.”
It’s classic LePage: The governor not only did not apologize to Gattine, he accused him of complicity in the deaths of citizens. At this point, Mainers can expect nothing less.