© 2021 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Auburn School Board Member's 'Food Stamps' Comment Denounced

AUBURN, Maine - Officials and private citizens in Auburn are denouncing the racially-charged Facebook posts of a member of the city's school committee.

Christopher Langis's comments on the social media site have come under scrutiny after he offended an African-American woman on the Facebook page of the department store Macy's.

The woman was so upset by Langis's comments that she personally contacted a member of the Auburn City Council and the Sun Journal newspaper.

The incident took place last Tuesday, when Rae Washington was browsing the Macy's page on Facebook. Washington did not respond to MPBN's request for an interview. But in an interview with the Sun Journal, the woman, a graduate student in Texas, described what happened:

She was on the Macy's page and saw a promotional give-a-way for a make-up bag. "Ohh that bag is too cute! Looks like I have some shopping to do!" Washington posted, under the Facebook name Cho Large. A photo that accompanied her post clearly shows that Washington is African-American.

Christopher Langis then responded to the post with one of his own, writing: "They don't take food stamps."

"I actually had a chance to speak with Ms. Washington on the phone yesterday afternoon," says Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte.

LeBonte says he picked up the phone and called Washington after he learned what happened. "It was important for me, as mayor, to have a chance to speak to her and let her know what the pulse and views of the community of Auburn were about the issue, and that we apologize that her, really - first and only - interaction with Auburn, Maine, to that point had been a racist and bigoted post on social media."

Calls to Langis to get his side of the story have not been returned. But Langis did send a letter to the people of Auburn, which the Sun Journal posted on its website.

"First," Langis wrote, "the reason I was on Macy’s Facbook page commenting is that they have decided to bow to the pressure of political correctness and stop selling Donald Trump's line of men's apparel because of recent comments Mr. Trump made where he stated that the United States needs to secure our borders and crack down on illegal immigration."

Trump has come under fire for saying that most of the illegal immigrants who cross the border from Mexico are drug dealers and rapists. In his letter, Christopher Langis warns against efforts to curb free speech, but does not explain why he responded to Rae Washington with the "food stamps" comment.

"I know the man, obviously - I serve with him on the school board. It troubles me that he would say that," says Peter Letourneau, who is running for mayor of Auburn. Letourneau says he's not speaking for the school board, only for himself as a private citizen. "He has a right to his opinion. He has a right to express his opinion. He should expect a backlash and repercussions from such a volatile opinion."

The Auburn School committee holds its monthly meeting tonight. An agenda for the meeting does not make mention of any plan to address Langis's comments. A call to committee chair Thomas Kendall seeking comment was not returned by airtime.