While speaking at a Bridgton town hall Wednesday night, Maine Gov. Paul LePage brought race into a discussion about substance abuse and illegal drugs, leading many to criticize his remarks.
After a resident asked LePage about state and local policies regarding the issue of drugs, the governor noted that illicit drugs often make their way into the state as dealers from other areas come into Maine — and that said outsiders subsequently create other issues by impregnating “young, white’’ girls.
“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.’’
LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, denied that the comment was “about race’’ in an email statement to Boston.com Thursday, and instead put emphasis on LePage’s concern for children.
“The Governor is not making comments about race,’’ he wrote. “Race is irrelevant. What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood too. We need to stop the drug traffickers from coming into our state.’’
Still, LePage is under fire for the comment. Michael Tyler, the Democratic National Committee director of African American media, released an email statement calling on New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie to renounce his endorsement of LePage for president.
“Paul LePage’s comments are disgusting, racist, and represent the worst form of conservative politics — one that plays to the darkest elements of the Republican Party’s base,’’ Tyler’s statement said.
Christie and LePage have been close in the past, and Christie campaigned for LePage when he ran for re-election in 2014, according to The New York Times.
Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, also denounced LePage’s remarks, saying that such comments are in line with the conversation some Republicans are starting on the national level.
“It’s outrageous,’’ Bartlett told the Portland Press Herald. “Everybody should be denouncing his comments and what they’re intended to provoke. I would call upon all Republicans to stand up and say this is wrong and it’s not acceptable in our public discourse. It’s simply indefensible.’’