Maine Gov. Paul LePage drew heavy criticism Thursday for his comments regarding out-of-state drug dealers who he claimed are impregnating “young white” girls.
The blunt-spoken Republican was speaking about Maine’s heroin epidemic Wednesday and described out-of-state drug dealers as "guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" and said "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave."
LePage, who’s white, didn’t describe the races of the aforementioned drug dealers during a town meeting in Bridgton, and a spokesman said Thursday that LePage wasn’t making a comment about race.
However, fellow Republican and LePage critic Lance Dutson, said the governor was playing up people’s racial fears.
"This is one of the most blatantly racist statements he's ever made," said Dutson, a former CEO of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center who helped create the GOP group Get Right Maine to combat extremism. "One of the things that's offensive about it is that it's reminiscent of this fearmongering in American history that people would like to think is long gone."
Michael Alpert, the president of Bangor’s NAACP chapter, called the governor’s comments “sad” and “foolish.”
LePage's chief of communications, Peter Steele, insisted the governor wasn't talking about race when he made the comment.
“Race is irrelevant," Steele said in an email to the Associated Press. "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."
Also among LePage’s critics was the Hillary Clinton campaign. Marlon Marshall, a spokesman for Hillary for America, told the Portland Press Herald “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems.”
Phil Bartlett, the chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, told the paper the governor’s comments were “coded racism” made to divide Maine residents.
LePage is known for speaking his mind, and it sometimes gets him into trouble. He said on the campaign trail that he'd tell President Barack Obama to "go to hell," and then soon after he was elected to his first term he told the Portland chapter of the NAACP to "kiss my butt."
He previously likened the IRS to the Gestapo, called protesters "idiots" and said a political foe liked to "give it to the people without Vaseline."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.