(CNSNews.com) – Maine Governor Paul LePage denied Tuesday that he was resigning amid political blowback for saying that out-of-state black and Hispanic drug dealers were responsible for the surge in fatal drug overdoses in his state and for leaving an obscene voicemail for a state lawmaker who called the comments “racially charged’.
“I’m looking at all options,” LePage told radio station WVOM on Tuesday morning after apologizing for his angry outburst on the phone. “I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”
However, the governor later tweeted that “regarding rumors of resignation, to paraphrase Mark Twain: ‘The reports of my political demise are greatly exaggerated’.”
LePage came under fire for stating that that “the overwhelming majority” of drug dealers arrested in Maine in 2016 were blacks and Hispanics from Connecticut and New York. “It’s not a matter of race, it’s a matter of fact,” the two-term Republican governor said.
“Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office,” an August 26 Portland Press-Herald editorial began, accusing LePage of “giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.”
“When it comes to the meth labs, they’re all white Maine people,” LePage clarified during his interview with WVOM on Tuesday. “When it comes to the heroin epidemic, it’s just the opposite. And whether it’s right or wrong, and I’ll leave you to make that judgment, but I spoke fact…. We have a minority population in Maine, and they’re not involved,” he added.
At a town hall in North Berwick last Wednesday, LePage was asked about attracting minority-owned businesses to Maine given “the toxic environment that you create.”
“I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state. Now ever since I said that comment, I’ve been collecting [the photos of] every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state. Sir, you are welcome to come look at them,” LePage responded.
“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 [in New York City]. I didn’t make the rules. I’m just telling you what’s happening.”
When the questioner suggested that the large percentage of black and Hispanic drug arrests were due to racial profiling, LePage added, “There were a whole lot of white girls, too. In fact, in almost every single picture is a white Maine girl.”
“When someone calls me a racist, I take it very seriously. I didn’t know Drew Gattine from a hole in the wall until yesterday. It made me enormously angry when a TV reporter asked me for my reaction about Gattine calling me a racist. It is the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person,” LePage said.
“So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of. 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 the governor a racist. “I’m not a name-caller. I’m not going to play that game with the governor,” the state legislator said.
According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, there were 189 drug overdose deaths in Maine during the first six months of 2016, following a record 272 fatal overdoses last year, which represented a 31 percent increase over 2014.
“In 2014, there were 208 drug related overdose deaths compared to 131 motor vehicle related deaths,” according to the department.
“These figures are shocking,” Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said in March, noting that for the first time last year, overdoses from illegal drugs in the state exceeded those from pharmaceutical opioids.
“Maine averaged more than five drug deaths per week. That is five families every week losing a loved one to drugs,” she said.