LePage town hall meeting comment goes viral; what people thought

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

Less than a week after Gov. Paul LePage made remarks that were challenged as politically incorrect, those statements were added to the LePage entry on Wikipedia.

The words were delivered during LePage’s first town hall meeting of 2016, which was held in the lower-floor meeting room of the Bridgton Town Office. His words garnered national attention.

“Drug sellers 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,” Gov. LePage said.

“Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave,” he said, adding, “which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

Some of the people in the audience laughed when LePage listed the aliases of drug dealers busted in Maine.

However, the room quieted at the mention of impregnating “a young, white girl.”

Earlier in the evening of Jan. 6, LePage had touched upon the drug epidemic. He talked about the increasing number of fatal overdoses and drug-addicted babies being born in Maine.

He said he was tired of “watching his friends bury their children” who died from an overdose or other drug-related death.

LePage’s town hall meeting remark was still being discussed days after the Governor’s Office had come out with a statement saying he was referring to specific cases of people arrested for dealing illegal drugs.

Also, the statement said LePage meant to say a young “Maine” woman and instead inserted the word “white.”

Some area residents who attended the Jan. 6 town hall meeting expressed their opinions about LePage’s statement.

Peter O’Brien, of Fryeburg, said he was taken aback but not totally shocked by LePage’s remark.

That’s because it is not a singular incident, but a larger pattern of consistently making comments that are hurtful to one group of people, he said.

“He is applying rhetoric that is from another age. It’s from another century,” he said.

LePage grew up in a Franco-American community, speaking French as his first language, and dealing with prejudice behavior against his ethnic group, said O’Brien, who recalls such treatment as an Irish-American.

“I am a second generation Irish immigrant. I’ve seen signs that said, ‘No dogs or Irish allowed.’ If it fits on a bumper sticker, people can buy into it,” O’Brien said.

LePage “is the product of that environment. He has taken that and projected onto ‘D-Money and Smoothie.’ The idea is to move the ball ahead, not take what was done to you, and do it to others,” he said.

“The reason we are the greatest country in the world is because of my parents, our parents, moving ahead, moving beyond racial slogans,” O’Brien said.

“I genuinely think that LePage treated this (town hall meeting) like a late night TV appearance,” he said.

On several occasions, rather than directly answering a question, the governor cracked a joke.

“It distracted from the drug epidemic” conversation and potential solutions, O’Brien said.

Nancy Vose, of Naples, agreed that LePage’s message was lost while the spotlight shifted to a single comment deemed inappropriate.

“I honestly think in this time of intense political correctness, the press is standing there like a cat ready to pounce. They have exaggerated and focused on mostly that” comment, Vose said.

“No one talked about it on Wednesday night” when it happened, she said.

Meanwhile, in the news reports, there was “not one word about the scholarship program to keep kids in Maine,” Vose said.

Instead, the news coverage by “the statewide news stations and the bigger newspaper make him out to be a racist and a bully,” Vose said.

Vose said she has personally met LePage; and she does not think that he intentially makes racist comments.

“I happen to be a fan of Paul LePage. He is one of the nicest men I know. I wish they could be friends of ours,” she said.

“He is nice. He is abrupt,” she said.

“A lot of people in Maine like that he speaks up” and addresses the important issues, making him a strong figure in state politics, Vose said.

O’Brien said that strength in the political arena could be measured by the ability to be tactful and diplomatic.

“Leadership is a quality that few possess. My time in the Army made me painfully aware that the insignia on a man’s collar had little relationship to his ability to lead. One has it or one doesn’t. In Vietnam, I was lucky to serve under one of the few,” he said.

“As the years meander into a new century, my appreciation of that has grown. It is my good fortune that I didn’t serve under Paul LePage in Vietnam,” he said.

“His personality comes before his duty to the people of the State of Maine. That is unacceptable,” O’Brien said.

 

 

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