In an apparent response to criticism of statements he made Wednesday about black and Hispanic people from other states coming to Maine to sell drugs, Gov. Paul LePage left a profanity-packed voicemail for a Democratic lawmaker.
On Wednesday, the governor made a series of racially charged comments, including a reprise of comments he made in January about black and Hispanic drug dealers bringing heroin to Maine and impregnating white girls while they’re here.
The governor repeated the comments at a town hall in North Berwick on Wednesday night, then defended them Thursday in an interview with reporters at the Blaine House. Scott Thistle of the Portland Press Herald was one of them. But that’s not all, according to Thistle’s reporting. After a reporter told LePage at the State House that Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, had criticized LePage’s comments, LePage left an obscene message on Gattine’s voicemail. (Warning: It is quite obscene.)
“I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist c**ksucker,” said LePage, according to audio of the call. “I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you.”
LePage also told Thistle he would like to have a gun duel with Gattine and that he’d point his gun “right between” Gattine’s eyes.
On Friday, LePage issued a statement offering further explanation of his message to Gattine. He said that he became “enormously angry” when a television reporter asked him to respond to Gattine’s criticism of his statements at the town hall forum.
In his Friday statement, LePage characterized Gattine’s criticism as “calling me a racist.”
“So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of,” LePage said in the statement. “I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. Legislators like Gattine would rather be politically correct and protect ruthless drug dealers than work with me to stop this crisis that is killing five Mainers a week.”
Gattine denied calling LePage a racist. He told the BDN on Friday morning that calling someone a racist “is one of the worst things you could ever call a person and I have never called anyone that.”
“I don’t think racially charged remarks like that are at all helpful for trying to solve the crisis we have with heroin overdoses,” said Gattine. “The biggest problem we have right now is not getting addicts the treatment they need. … I’m not going to throw fuel on the fire by making this about name calling.”
On Friday, LePage clarified what he meant when he said he “was going after Gattine.” “I meant I would do everything I could to see that he and his agenda is defeated politically,” LePage said in a prepared statement. ” I am a history buff, and I referenced how political opponents used to call each other out in the 1820s—including Andrew Jackson, the father of the Democratic Party. Obviously, it is illegal today; it was simply a metaphor and I meant no physical harm to Gattine.”
During a media session Friday at the State House, LePage described out-of-state drug dealers as “the enemy” and equated their racial identities to those of British soldiers who wore red coats that made them identifiable as the enemy during the Revolutionary War. He also emphatically reiterated that he did not intend to apologize to Gattine.
Gattine, a second-term lawmaker and co-chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, has long clashed with LePage and his administration, particularly on health care issues. More clashes are near certain in the coming two years, with LePage finishing his second term and Gattine headed to re-election unopposed.
Gattine said he will continue to oppose some of LePage’s and Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s initiatives related to dealing with Maine’s drug addiction crisis, including a pending DHHS Medicaid rule change that advocates for drug treatment centers said will drive some out of operation.
House Democratic leaders quickly condemned LePage’s comments in a prepared statement containing some of their harshest criticism yet of the governor. “Paul LePage is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold office,” reads the statement. “His words and actions have crossed a line. Threats of violence are never acceptable and cannot be tolerated in civilized society.”
They went further during a media event Friday, at which Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport called for LePage to resign. “We strongly and regretfully feel that he is unfit to serve as governor of the state of Maine right now,” she said.
Gideon also suggested that LePage’s message to Gattine be investigated as a potentially criminal act. “We would like to see what investigations ensue at this point, whether it’s from the state police, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department or Capitol Police,” Gideon said. “We have actually sent requests to all of these agencies to be vigilant in protecting Rep. Gattine.”
Gattine said he has not filed an official police complaint about the governor’s message and hasn’t decided whether he will.
LePage’s office has not responded to questions from the Bangor Daily News about his recent comments. During Thursday’s interview, the governor expressed outrage that some people perceive him to be a racist based on his public statements. As he has in the past, LePage noted that he has a black adopted son as evidence that he is not a racist.
Also on Wednesday, LePage told radio show host Howie Carr that Khizr Kahn, the father of a Muslim captain who died fighting for the U.S. Army and who is campaigning against Donald Trump, is a “con artist.” It’s another story circulating across the country. — Christopher Cousins
- Presidential ticket visit: Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, William Weld, will visit Portland and Lewiston today. They will be at the Regency Hotel & Spa in Portland at 11:30 a.m. and at the Gendron Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston at 6 p.m. Space is limited for both events. Watch us for coverage.
- Educators honored: Four Maine educators are among 213 math and science teachers recognized by President Barack Obama recently with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science. The winners from Maine are Lauree Gott from Veazie Community School; Laura Stevens of James Otis Kaler Elementary School in South Portland; Marielle Edgecomb from the Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor; and Cary James from Bangor High School. The awards, with the teachers will collect on Sept. 8 at the White House, come with a $10,000 prize from the National Science Foundation to be used at the teachers’ discretion.
- Groups behind 3 of 5 Maine ballot questions face campaign finance fines — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- New North Woods monument leader wants ‘to hear what people have to say’ — Nick Sambides Jr., BDN
- Into the North Woods: Exploring Maine new national monument — Aislinn Sarnacki and Gabor Degre, BDN
- No Senate vote on Obama’s TPP deal this year, McConnell says — David Lawder, Reuters
- Why this Maine family has been fighting for access to its summer home — Abigail Curtis, BDN
- Worm diggers, other marine harvesters decry Acadia enforcement on tidal flats — Bill Trotter, BDN
- The mayor’s proposed rental regulations could hit legal roadblocks, experts say — Dan MacLeod, BDN
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- A man is “looking for a very attractive woman who would be willing to take a few photos with my car.” If you’re interested, you’ll have to wear “bikini or lingerie preferably or some sort of sexy outfit.” But don’t worry: “This is only for my personal use and most likely will be hung on the wall of my garage.” Here’s your soundtrack.
- A Portland hard rock band is looking for “a kick ass drummer.” “420 friendly but please no addicts,” they say, helpfully. — Michael Shepherd