Reactions to LePage’s alleged quip that Obama ‘hates white people’

UPDATE: Gov. LePage has denied making the controversial remarks. A video posted by WCSH, Portland’s NBC affiliate, shows Gov. LePage leaving his office while brushing off reporters Tuesday at the State House. “No, I never said that, and you guys are all about gossip,” he says in the video.

Greeting, BDN readers.

As you may have read,  attendees of a Maine GOP fundraiser held August 12 in Belgrade, have alleged that Gov. Paul LePage told donors there that President Barack Obama “hates white people.”

The sources have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of political reprisal in Augusta, but the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald, which originally reported the story, have independently confirmed that at least some attendees heard the remarks, though it’s worth noting that others in attendance — including House Minority Leader Ken Fredette of Newport and Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett — said they did not hear the comment.

Today, I’ll be updating this blog with quick-shot reactions from lawmakers in Augusta, party officials and others. Check back often.

  • Most notably, Republicans have, for the most part, stayed mum on the story entirely. While pundits and the Twitteratti took to social media last night to discuss the comments — at length — efforts to contact LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, have so far been unsuccessful. The big news out of the Blaine House yesterday, when the story broke, had been that LePage had sent boxes of lobster meat and other goodies to the governor’s of the other 49 states in an effort to promote Maine’s lobster industry.
  • Senate Republicans also won’t be discussing the issue with reporters, according to communications director Jim Cyr. “This was a private fundraiser, said in someone’s home, and we’ll have to refer to the governor’s office about what was said,” Cyr said Tuesday. “I think the setting matters. This was in somebody’s home in an event that wasn’t open to the public.”  
  • In an email, Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said “the Governor’s comments are shameful. Their only purpose is to fester hate and divide people. … This is a further embarrassment to the people of Maine. His remarks do not reflect who we are as Mainers and what we believe.” 
  • LePage’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, said Monday night that the governor is not a racist: “It seems far-fetched for anyone, even a newspaper, to make an insinuation the Governor is racist given his life history,” Littlefield said in an email statement. “He and his family made a choice and sacrifice when they offered Devon [a native of Jamaica who lived with the LePages in Waterville, and whom the governor refers to as his adopted son] the opportunity to join their family many years ago. Paul and Ann call him their son. Paul LePage recognized many people helped him make it out of poverty and he has been determined to help others succeed.”
    • [9:53 a.m. update]: Littlefield also appeared on WGAN this morning, where he refused to answer whether LePage made the comment, or whether he’d asked the governor about the comment. Instead, he said newspapers in the state were attacking the governor. “There’s been no love lost between the media and the governor,” he said on the news program. He also insinuated the the anonymous sources could be plants by the Eliot Cutler or Mike Michaud gubernatorial campaigns.
  • Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, of Skowhegan, said he wanted the governor to clarify his statement: “At this point, it’s a little like hearsay, so it would be good for the governor to clarify his comments,” McCabe said Tuesday. “If he did say them, it’s a little troubling.”
  • One high-profile Republican, former 1st District congressional candidate Dean Scontras, called for the governor’s resignation on Twitter
  • [9:56 a.m. update] Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant called on Maine Republicans — not Democrats — to press the issue: “We don’t need further condemnation of Paul LePage,” he said Tuesday. “That’s happened in great volume over the past three years. But it’s time for [other Republicans] to stand up and say, ‘This is not who we are.’ I think it would be great to see that from the GOP.”
  • [10:10 a.m. update] Former LePage spokesman and current political consultant, Dan Demeritt, in an interview Tuesday: “[LePage] has got to find a way, for the good of his own reelection, and for all Republicans, to eliminate these kind of distractions. When people have a chance to hear where the governor wants to take the state, they’re with him, so these kind of distractions are unfortunate.”
  • [11:02 a.m. update] Lisa and John Fortier were hosts of the GOP fundraiser in Belgrade last week. Reached Tuesday morning, Lisa Fortier said she didn’t hear the governor make the alleged remark. The event was mostly informal, with guests and politicians chatting among themselves. “I never heard him say anything like that. I was in the kitchen. I was feeding everybody. I never heard the comment that people say he made,” she said.
  • [12:50 p.m. update] A spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, Danny Kanner, blasted LePage, saying the governor “continuously brings public humiliation, paired with ideological extremism, to the people of Maine,” according to BDN blogger and U.S. News and World Report political reporter Rebekah Metzler. “That era will end next November, and working Mainers will be better off for it.”
  • [4:51 p.m. update] Lastly, BDN editorial cartoonist has sketched out his take on what the alleged comments mean for the new state GOP chairman, Rick Bennett.
Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.