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ACLU asks Maine Gov. LePage for more on claim that ’90-plus percent’ of the state’s drug dealers are black, Hispanic

Maine Gov. Paul LePage. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Earlier this year, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) got himself into some trouble when he claimed that the state’s drug problems are due to “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” from other areas who travel to Maine and “half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

Lots of people were not terribly thrilled with these comments, so LePage came out and apologized “to all the Maine women,” acknowledging that he could have chosen better words with his overall comments but refusing to apologize.

That was January, and it’s August now, so let’s check in with LePage to see what he had to say at a town hall this week when he was asked about his racially charged comments about drug dealers. (The transcript of his remarks is thanks to audio of the town hall released by the Portland Press Herald.)

“Let me tell you this, let me tell you, 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-ring binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just telling you what’s happening.”

Emphasis added, because 90-plus percent sure seems like a high figure.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine also has some questions about the statistic that LePage used this week. On Thursday, the group filed a public-records request seeking access to the three-ring binder he mentioned.

“According to the governor, Maine police are nine times more likely to arrest people of color for selling drugs than white people, even though we know white people are just as likely to commit drug offenses,” Alison Beyea, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “This alarming disparity in arrests raises significant concerns that Maine law enforcement is participating in unconstitutional racial profiling. … We look forward to examining the governor’s records so we can get to the bottom of this and hold our elected officials accountable to the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Zachary L. Heiden, legal director of the ACLU for Maine and the person who filed the request, said Friday he had not heard back yet from LePage’s office, which had five days to acknowledge receiving it.

A spokeswoman for LePage did not respond to a request for comment about this on Friday.

Maine governor: ‘I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you expletive’

LePage was also asked at the town hall about whether this meant police were racially profiling, since there are also white drug dealers in the state and beyond. The governor’s response, like his comments in January, brought it back to “white girls”:

“There were white — there’s a whole lot of white girls, too. A whole lot of white girls. In fact, almost in every single picture, is a white, Maine girl in the picture.”

It was unclear what kinds of photos this binder included, and LePage’s office did not respond to a question seeking clarification.

This wasn’t the only time LePage has been in the news this week, defending his history of racially inflammatory commentary. On Thursday, after LePage said he was told a state lawmaker had called him racist, the governor left that lawmaker a voice mail filled with profanity.

LePage capped off the message by urging this state representative to record and release the voice mail, and then LePage followed that by telling reporters he wanted to have an armed duel with the lawmaker. In a statement Friday, LePage apologized for using an obscenity and said he only meant the duel comment as “a metaphor,” adding that he “meant no physical harm” to the lawmaker.

Further reading:

Governor who warned of drug dealers impregnating white girls now has some thoughts on the guillotine