Gov. Paul LePage veered into personal territory Wednesday during a discussion about domestic violence on a Portland radio station, saying his father caused the death of an unborn sibling by kicking his mother when she was seven months pregnant.

LePage, an outspoken critic of domestic violence and a victim himself, has spoken previously about the abuse he suffered during his childhood growing up in Lewiston, but his account Wednesday was the first time he publicly connected the death of a fetus to his father’s abuse of his mother.

LePage was asked to appear on WJJB 96.3’s morning show to talk about penalties levied against Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who knocked his fiancee unconscious in a casino elevator in February. A host asked LePage whether he believed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s claim that no one in the league had seen a video of Rice hitting Janay Palmer, who is now his wife.

“Just the graphic explanation, knocking someone out and dragging them off an elevator, should have been enough,” LePage said on the radio.

Then, unprompted, he related a memory from his childhood: “Listen. My dad, I remember, my dad, being about 10 years old, my dad kicking my mother seven months pregnant. A week later, it’s a stillborn. I blame my dad. End of story. End of story.”

The hosts, Dave “Shoe” Schumacher, and Joe Palmieri went silent before continuing to question the governor about the NFL and its reaction to Rice’s violence.

“I was pretty taken aback and surprised,” Schumacher said after the show. “It’s like, how do you respond to something like that?”

Asked about LePage’s accusation against his father, campaign spokesman Alex Willette said he’d heard the story before but didn’t believe LePage previously had shared it publicly.

The governor’s office did not return multiple requests for an interview with LePage to discuss the accusation.

One of LePage’s sisters, Diane Saindon, of Deland, Fla., did not remember the incident her brother described, saying she would have been 3 years old when he was 10.

Saindon said two of her siblings died: Norman, at age 4, of a stomach illness; and Marie, who was not carried to term by her mother, Teresa LePage, and died at birth.

While Saindon couldn’t say whether the stillbirth was caused by a beating, it’s clear that Teresa LePage was the target of regular abuse from her husband.

“He beat (my mother) through all her pregnancies, when she was pregnant with all of us,” Saindon said. “That’s how mean he was. He was nasty.”

Such abuse is not uncommon, according to statistics provided by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Twenty percent to 40 percent of all women who are battered suffer the abuse during pregnancy, said Julia Colpitts, the coalition’s executive director.

“The governor’s image of this mother being assaulted while pregnant is an horrific one for any child to bear,” Colpitts said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to him and to other children who carry similar images from their childhood.”

Meanwhile, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have faced intense criticism about the league’s shifting policy on domestic violence. The NFL has claimed it did not see the video before it was released online by gossip website TMZ Sports, although The Associated Press reported Wednesday that law enforcement officials gave the tape to the NFL in April.

Rice was indicted by a New Jersey grand jury on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault, but was accepted into a diversionary program that allowed him to avoid jail time. Goodell at first suspended Rice for two games, but public outrage about the weak punishment led Goodell to re-evaluate the league’s domestic violence policy. Under the new rules, a first offense brings a six-game suspension. A second triggers a lifetime ban from league play.

In the furor about Goodell’s decision, LePage wrote a letter to the commissioner saying he would boycott the upcoming 2014-15 NFL season, and eventually the Utah governor did the same at LePage’s urging.

“If a two-week suspension is the ‘punishment’ for knocking a woman unconscious, then there is something very wrong with the NFL culture,” LePage said during a weekly radio address in August. “The NFL mandates harsher penalties for players who violate the league’s personal-conduct policy or abuse drugs than those who commit domestic violence. This defies common sense.”

Because Rice now is suspended indefinitely, LePage said he would watch football this season.

LePage has worked to strengthen domestic violence laws since he took office and has won praise from groups working to prevent domestic violence.

The governor’s connection to the issue is deeply personal. As a boy, LePage was physically abused by his alcoholic father.

In July, LePage gave an interview to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in which he discussed at length the abuse he and his mother suffered at his father’s hands.

The abuse came to a head one Sunday in 1959, when Gerard LePage sat his 11-year-old son in a kitchen chair and slapped him over and over until he knocked the boy from his seat.

“Then I fell on the floor and he started kicking, and then the neighbor heard it and came in and stopped it,” LePage said.

A broken nose and jaw sent LePage to the hospital, where his father gave him a 50-cent piece and told him to tell the medical staff he fell down the stairs. LePage said he left the hospital and never returned to live under his father’s roof.

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