Governor Paul LePage today issued an apology to the people of Maine for a threatening and obscenity-laden voicemail he left for a Democratic lawmaker. But LePage also defended his right to be angry for assertions that he
is racist and dismissed calls for his resignation. The drama that unfolded today has been building for months.
It was this past January when Governor LePage told a town meeting in Bridgton about black drug dealers coming to Maine, selling their heroin, and impregnating white girls. At a similar meeting North Berwick this week, LePage defended his views and revealed that he has been keeping a binder of news releases and photos of drug arrests across the state, which he says shows that most of the arrests involve blacks and Hispanics.
“Ninety plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it is a three ring binder, are black or Hispanic people,” he says.
Then on Thursday, as LePage faced mounting criticism from Democrats and others for what they say were his racially charged comments. He left this obscenity- laden voice message for one of his critics, Rep. Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook).
“Mr. Gattine this is Governor Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist you c—sucker and you I want to talk to you, I want you to prove that I am a racist. I spent my life trying to help black people and you little son of a bitch socialist c—sucker I need you to, this frigging, I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”
The voicemail was made public, and was denounced by legislative leaders of both parties. Democrats went further, calling for LePage to resign. The Governor held a news conference and apologized for the language he used in the voicemail, saying that he lost his temper because he had been called a racist.
“I‘m not shying away from what I called him because everything that came out of my mouth, everything I said to that man, is less, verrr…is less insulting than being called a racist, in my mind,” says LePage.
LePage says he would consider apologizing to Gattine if Gattine apologized to him for calling him a racist. At a Portland news conference, Gattine denied that he had ever made such a remark.
“I didn’t call the Governor a racist, that’s an awful thing to call somebody. I choose my words very carefully,” says Gattine. “I think his comments were racially charged and unhelpful and I stand behind those comments, but I didn’t call him a racist.”
LePage also dismissed calls for his resignation. He told reporters that he would resign if Gattine and a list of other lawmakers he declined to name from both parties would also resign and not seek reelection.
“You’re telling me that I need to resign because someone used the most vile word in the world in a person that has been discriminated against growing up, who has been kicked around by the Irish, by the Italians because he was a poor French kid,” says LePage. “And I am going to resign? No.”
The Governor said several times that the race of drug dealers does not matter to him, that he was just citing the facts.
According to FBI statistics for 2014 of the more than 1,200 people arrested in Maine for the sale and manufacture of drugs, about 14% percent were black. Portland police report a similar percentage.