The words themselves are, by now, well-known.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said some things while answering a question about drug policy posed at a Bridgton, Maine, town hall Wednesday night -- comments that have become what political reporters love to call a "gaffe."
They captured so much attention that, by Friday morning, LePage had issued one of those newfangled, "I'm not a racist; you are simply opting to view it that way" apologies that just so warm the human heart. Then he went a step further and insisted that he had, in fact, misspoken. It's all the women of Maine who are imperiled and at risk of impregnation by New York and Connecticut-based drug dealers, not just the "young white girls" he mentioned Wednesday.
The whole thing is truly a verbal mess of LePage's own making.
But there really was a lot packed into what LePage said: ideas and language that have long animated American politics, helped candidates win and lose elections and that shape the country's increased willingness to abandon its mass incarceration approach to battling drug epidemics in favor of a new-found interest in treatment. Also, LePage, a well-known practitioner of politically incorrect and often incendiary speech, has endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in his battle to claim the GOP presidential nomination.
So, The Fix thought this was an occasion when LePage's words, notable as they are, should occupy center stage. So, we've collected LePage's comments about drugs and sex and babies and dropped them in below. We'll annotate them here and there to add a bit of social, political and historical context. Just click on the yellow highlighted passages below to dive in.
On Thursday, while addressing the town hall, LePage said:
"These 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. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road."
By Friday, LePage told reporters that what he meant to say was "Maine women" -- or perhaps "the women of Maine" -- rather than "young white girl[s]." It was all a mistake, or rather his misstatement and a rabid press desire to "make" his comments racist. Here's what LePage said:
“My brain was slower than my mouth,” he said. “If you want to make it racist, go right ahead and do whatever you want.”
“Instead of saying Maine women, I said white women,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize to the Maine women for that. Because if you go to Maine, you’ll see that we’re essentially 95 percent white.”
LePage also said the drug dealers named “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” were not racial but were street names taken from a police report.
“I never said anything about white or black on traffickers. You’re reading things into what I didn’t say,” LePage said. “What are they, black? I don’t know who they are. I just read the names.... I know where they’re from, but I don’t know if they’re white, black, [or] Asian.”