Republican Gov. Paul LePage drew criticism Tuesday when he told a black congressman who risked his life to fight for civil rights that he needed a history lesson. LePage also said Rep. John Lewis should be grateful for the work of white Republican presidents who abolished slavery and fought on behalf of blacks. But historians say LePage was incorrect when he credited Republicans Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant with fighting Jim Crow laws.
Here’s a look at other provocative remarks made by the two-term governor:
As a candidate for governor, LePage told a group of fishermen during a discussion of federal regulations that he wouldn’t be afraid to tell President Barack Obama to “go to hell.” He later said he regretted the words but didn’t back down on criticism of the administration.
After the Portland NAACP chapter felt slighted when LePage declined invitations to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, a reporter asked LePage about it. He answered: “Tell them to kiss my butt.” LePage ended up attending a breakfast honoring the slain civil rights leader in Waterville, as he had in the past, and he skipped events in Maine’s largest city.
LePage dismissed the dangers of bisphenol-A, a chemical additive used in some plastic bottles, by saying the worst that could happen was “some women may have little beards.” LePage later said he was joking.
LePage used a barnyard epithet when he was asked about a meeting he had with three unemployed workers and a lawmaker. When a reporter asked him for his thoughts about the meeting, LePage used the expletive, then repeated it slowly.
At a town hall meeting, LePage was asked about state fees. LePage’s response: “The problem is, Middle management of the state is about as corrupt as can be.”
In a radio address, LePage assailed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the health care overhaul law, saying Americans had no choice but to buy health insurance or “pay the new Gestapo — the IRS.” He later said he didn’t mean to offend the Jewish community or minimize the Holocaust.
Expressing his frustration over the state budget, LePage used a vulgar phrase to describe a Democratic opponent, saying the lawmaker “claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
LePage joked about shooting a political cartoonist to the cartoonist’s son at a youth leadership program. A newspaper official said it wasn’t funny, especially after the killing of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
LePage said during a town hall meeting that drug dealers with the names “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” come to Maine from New York City and Connecticut, sell their drugs and then “half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.” LePage later apologized, saying he meant to say “Maine women” instead of white women.
Later that month, LePage said he wanted to use the guillotine to execute drug dealers publicly. The governor’s office said the remark during a radio interview was just a joke to illustrate his support for tougher penalties for drug crimes. In the interview, LePage laughed when he talked about using the guillotine to chop off the heads of drug traffickers.
LePage was accused of racial insensitivity over a joke about a Chinese investor’s name. The man’s first name is Chiu — pronounced “choo.” When LePage mentioned him at a business breakfast, he pronounced the man’s name with an emphatic fake sneeze. The governor’s office later said the two have an “excellent relationship.”
At the Republican Party convention, LePage said that it’s hard to understand workers from Bulgaria and that workers from India are “the worst ones.” He made his remarks while criticizing a proposal to increase Maine’s minimum wage. He described Indians as “lovely people, but you’ve got to have an interpreter.”
LePage vowed to seek “spiritual guidance” but rejected assertions that he had addiction or mental health issues after leaving an obscenity-laced tirade on a lawmaker’s voicemail.
On the voicemail, LePage used a slur that relates to oral sex and concluded his rant by telling Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine that, “I am after you.” Later, he told reporters he wished he could go back in time so he could challenge Gattine to a duel and point a gun “right between his eyes.”
Republican Gov. Paul LePage offered an erroneous history lesson about racial segregation to Rep. John Lewis, a black Georgia congressman who risked his life to fight for civil rights. “You know, I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history,” LePage said on WVOM-FM. “It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.”
Lincoln did push to end slavery, but historians say that Jim Crow laws didn’t exist during the Grant administration and that Hayes’ presidency set the stage for the creation of Jim Crow laws.
LePage later called on the NAACP to apologize to white people.
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