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

LePage: 'Young, White Girl' Remark was 'Slip of the Tongue'

Mal Leary
Paul LePage at a Friday news conference.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has apologized for telling a Bridgton audience this week that out-of-state drug dealers were coming to Maine and impregnating white girls. But he refused to acknowledge the remarks were racist.

Instead, the governor accused the media of inflaming them, and he berated reporters for not doing more to help fight the state's war on drugs.

In the aftermath of remarks that have drawn condemnation across the country, Gov. Paul LePage is standing his ground. While apologizing to Maine women in general, LePage told reporters gathered in his cabinet room that he never intended to make a racially charged statement when he referred to three black drug dealers during a Bridgton town meeting this week.

"These are guys who are named 'D. Money,' 'Smoothie,' 'Shifty,'" he said at the meeting. "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 that we've got to deal with down the road."

When the remark was published by Republican blogger Lance Dutson, the incident went viral and was featured on websites and television news programs nationwide.

For his part, LePage vacillated during his press conference, readily acknowledging that he misspoke. At times he said he would not apologize to Maine women, and then he ultimately did apologize to Maine women — but not to black Americans.

In fact, LePage said he had no idea that the drug dealers he was referring to are black, asserting there was no way his remarks could have been racist.

In an attempt to explain his "slip of the tongue" regarding white girls, the governor invoked his own hardscrabble past growing up on the streets of Lewiston in the 1960s.

"Another word could have been better used, I'm not going to deny or apologize for that — that's who I am," LePage says. "You can take the kid off the street, but you can't take street out of the kid and that's a fact of life. And I've lived with that, believe me, I've been criticized for that many, many times."

Before trying to explain his remarks, the governor decided to zero in on Maine's news media, which he blamed for inflaming the gaffe that has triggered global outrage.

In attempting to characterize his relationship, the governor borrowed a line from the movie "Rocky."

"You'se don't like me and I don't like you — I sincerely mean that," LePage says.

Then the governor derided the reporters, photographers and videographers present for focusing on his unintended racial remark instead of the drug problem that he's trying to confront.

"The point is, you're not helping us with the drug deals — you're not helping us to make it a really major issue," LePage says. "You're more interested in reporting the Legislature and the governor disagree — yeah, we disagree."

LePage's remarks in Bridgton drew a harsh response from Republican and Democratic leaders, who characterized his statement in terms including inappropriate and appalling.

In addition to the New York Times, the Washington Post and the BBC, the New York Daily News also weighed in LePage, referring to him as a "stone-cold racist."

LePage continued to insist that if his remark threw a spotlight on Maine's drug problem, maybe the hoopla was worth it.

"I made a mistake and I'm not perfect but I will not stop correcting myself and bringing the issue at hand: drugs, drugs and more drugs," LePage says. "Beatings, beatings and more beatings. We have people dying. We have families being destroyed and we have children that we, the state, have to take in and we don't know what their future is going to be."

Even the Hillary Clinton campaign responded to the governor's gaffe, saying "Gov. 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."