Gov. Paul LePage abruptly canceled a planned appearance at an alumni celebration at Husson University on Thursday, two days after announcing that he would stop attending some ceremonial events because he was attracting too much negative media coverage.

Husson was notified less than two hours before LePage was scheduled to appear at his alma mater Thursday. The university was hosting a celebration of the 104th birthday of Clara Swan, an icon at the school who held many positions during her 34-year tenure there.

A LePage staffer said later Thursday that the governor was forced to cancel because he had to attend meetings with legislative leaders.

The cancellation happened two days after he abruptly walked out of a speaking engagement at the University of Maine at Farmington, calling students who were holding protest signs at the event “idiots.”

LePage apologized Wednesday for abruptly ending the speech during a building dedication at UMF. LePage spoke for only about 45 seconds before leaving the podium and calling two students in the audience “idiots” for holding up signs critical of him.

LePage was scheduled to appear at Husson University at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. LePage staffer Nicole Desjardins sent an email to Husson’s director of alumni relations, Amanda Cummings, at 9:34 a.m. saying there had been an “unexpected change in his schedule.” Husson spokesman Eric Gordon forwarded that message to news media in an email that said the birthday celebration would go on despite the late change.

“The governor sends his apologies as he was looking forward to seeing Clara and wishing her a happy birthday,” Desjardins said in the email. “We are so sorry for the last-minute change.”

Desjardins’ email did not say why LePage changed his plans. The email does include a formal disclaimer statement. “PLEASE READ CAREFULLY: Due to the nature of the Governor’s duties to the State of Maine and its citizens, there are occasions when the Governor needs to cancel and/or postpone meetings or events in order to attend pressing state matters. Please keep this in mind when planning for events.”

Gordon said LePage had not been scheduled to speak at the event but had wanted to pay his respects to Swan.

In his apology Wednesday, LePage explained why he would no longer attend some events like the one in Farmington.

“For more than five years, the media has flocked to events where I have been asked to speak, not to cover any good news about the events, but to disparage me over issues totally unrelated to the events,” LePage said in Wednesday’s apology. “Since I am such a distraction to the media, I will no longer attend some of these public events. I sincerely hope the media will continue to attend these events and report on the good people of Maine and the many positive things they are doing for our state.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor’s Husson cancellation was unrelated to his statement Wednesday. Instead, she said, the governor was in meetings.

“The Governor has been in meetings with legislative leaders all morning,” Bennett wrote in an email Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Augusta on Friday to take up dozens of bills vetoed by LePage since mid-April.

Husson announced LePage’s planned visit around 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, a little more than an hour after Bennett issued LePage’s apology message via email.

LePage was expected at the Bangor university as an honorary guest for a “cake and punch” reception at Husson’s Beardsley Meeting House.

LePage has in the past touted his experience at Husson, which was known as Husson College when he attended, graduating in 1971.

“My life started the day I walked into Husson College,” LePage said in a 2014 interview about his hardscrabble upbringing and how he turned his life around.

Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report

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