Maine Gov. Paul LePage said on Wednesday that the vast majority of drug dealers in the state are blacks and Hispanics who come from other states.
LePage made the comment at a town hall meeting in North Berwick, Maine when he attempted to defend statements he made earlier this year that black drug dealers, named D-Money and Shifty, were coming to Maine from out of state.
The Republican governor immediately came under fire from critics who accused him of being racist and divisive.
At the meeting, a local businessman Andrew Ritchie questioned the governor about his comments.
“Given the rhetoric you put out there about people of color in Maine, calling them drug dealers et cetera, how can I bring a company here given the toxic environment you create,” Ritchie asked the governor.
The governor defended his previous comments to Richie by saying that “90 percent of drug dealers coming into Maine are black or Hispanic.”
As reported by the Portland Press Herald, the governor told Richie, “Let me tell you this, explain to you, I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state, now ever since I said that comment I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state."
“I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Conn., the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
Richie further challenged the governor, suggesting perhaps he should consider Maine police are profiling people of color.
“There are a whole lot of white girls, too, a whole lot of white girls,” LePage said. “In fact, in almost every single picture is a white Maine girl in the picture.”
Communications Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Rachel Healy, released a statement to CBS 13 about the governor's comments.
"White people are statistically more likely to sell drugs than black people, yet according to the governor police in Maine are nine times more likely to arrest black people for doing so," the statement said. "We look forward to working with the governor to end any unconstitutional racial profiling that may be occurring."
House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, also released a statement criticizing the governor’s comments.
“I’m disgusted that Paul LePage came to my town to make racially charged comments that will do nothing more than divide our state,” Eves said. “If the governor is looking for something productive to do with his time, he should focus on ending Maine’s drug crisis by giving law enforcement the resources they need. . . . The governor and his administration, led by Mary Mayhew, have presided over the largest increase in drug use in Maine’s history and backed policies that worsen the crisis. Shame on him.”
About 45 people attended the town hall meeting at Nobel High School auditorium.