He’s been called just about everything in the book since he took office in 2011. But on Wednesday, one day after The Washington Post called for his resignation, Gov. Paul LePage earned himself a new nickname:

Maine’s official nut magnet.

“I don’t know your governor from Adam,” began the Rev. Steven Craft, head of Christian Citizenship Ministries Inc., at a State House news conference Wednesday that was, if nothing else, entertaining.

“Never met the man,” Craft continued. “Don’t know anything about him.”

But that didn’t stop the good reverend from traveling to Maine from New Jersey to … well, that’s where things get weird. I’ve watched the 40-minute presentation twice on Facebook, and I still can’t figure out what the guy was talking about.

Let’s rewind.

On Tuesday, one day after LePage publicly forked over his now infamous three-ring binder chock-full of alleged drug dealers and accounts of their misdeeds, a fellow named Hal Shurtleff put out an announcement headlined “Black Minister to Hold Press Conference at the State House to Defend Governor LePage.”

Shurtleff is with Camp Constitution, which exists “to enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage, our American heritage of courage and ingenuity, including the genius of our United States Constitution.”

(Sorry, Muslims and others outside the Judeo-Christian tent. No campsites for you.)

Shurtleff promised that the “black minister” would defend LePage from an ever-widening chorus of criticism for his repeated claims that Maine’s opioid crisis is the work of black and Hispanic drug dealers from away. This despite the fact that more than half the accused pushers in LePage’s now infamous bad-guy scrapbook – a cry for help if ever there was one – are neither black nor Hispanic.

The Rev. Craft’s other objective, Shurtleff promised, would be to call out the media for “playing the race card” against LePage.

Enter the Rev. Craft.

He’s 72, says he himself is a former heroin addict, and is blessed with an extraordinary ability to confuse the hell out of people.

Craft started by recalling a recent evening when he saw a national news report on LePage. Like so many others, the story highlighted the governor’s myopic fixation on blacks and Hispanics at a time when most Mainers wish he’d quit looking at the state’s drug crisis though race-tinted glasses.

“And the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, ‘Write a letter on Christian Citizenship Ministries letterhead and send it to Gov. LePage expressing to him that many things he said you agree with,'” recalled Craft.

So that’s what Craft did, official letterhead and all. He then got a note back from a LePage staffer thanking him for his “kind words.”

“But (LePage) hasn’t contacted me,” Craft said. “Not even with a ‘thank you’.”

Enter Craft’s good friend Shurtleff, from Camp Constitution, who attended the media briefing but barely said a word.

“Then Hal Shurtleff said, ‘You know what, man? We need to do a press conference to bring some clarity and balance to this thing,'” recalled Craft. “That’s the only reason I’m up here.”

Craft went on to say he wouldn’t have come in January because it’s so cold and black people hate the cold, which by the way is why Maine is so overwhelmingly white …

But we digress.

Back to the race card, which Craft got around to after invoking the Gospel According to John’s parable of how Jesus rescued the adulteress from an angry mob and told the mobsters that he who was without sin should cast the first stone. Apparently Craft sees himself as Jesus, LePage as the adulteress and the rest of us as the angry mob.

Darn, digressed again. Right, the race card.

Press Herald reporter Scott Thistle, in a valiant attempt to bring some sanity to the proceeding, asked Craft why the issue of race “is germane at all” to Maine’s drug problem.

“You’re right, Scott. It shouldn’t have been an issue,” replied Craft. “(LePage) was wrong by opening his mouth. … He played the race card. He did do that. But at the same time, being fair about the thing, the man said, ‘I was wrong and forgive me.’ So why is the thing still a controversy?”

Umm … maybe because the Rev. Craft came all the way to Maine to talk about it?

And so it went, a 40-minute session that was, at the very least, 39 minutes too long.

Craft actually claimed at several points that LePage has apologized for dragging race into the discussion, admitted his error and begged for forgiveness.

Not true, pointed out a reporter in the crowd.

“Did he clarify the wrong or is he still holding fast to a principle that it wasn’t wrong?” asked Craft. “That’s the answer I’d like to find out. I don’t know. You see what I’m saying?”


On the contents of the governor’s scrapbook and LePage’s now-disproven claim that 90 percent of its occupants are black or Hispanic, Craft opined, “He was wrong. So you got him there. It wasn’t 90 (percent). ACLU (of Maine) says it was 40. So I’m asking you, where are the other 99? Does that make sense?”

Sorry, Rev. Lost us again.

Then there was Craft’s message for LePage, the man he purportedly came here to defend: “Man, stop having diarrhea of the mouth! Think before you shoot off at your mouth and you won’t have these controversies!”

OK, now that made sense.

Worth noting here is that neither LePage nor anyone on his staff came within barking distance of this carnival. Which is a good thing for them, considering how badly it backfired.

Still, there’s an important message behind this out-of-nowhere visit by a preacher who knows not of what he speaks and a constitutional camper who knows dry kindling when he sees it.

For those who don’t believe LePage’s antics have hurt this state’s image far beyond its borders, look no farther than Craft and Shurtleff and others out there on the fringes who now view Maine as the nation’s number one destination for lunacy.

And where, pray tell, might they get such an idea?


They saw it in The Washington Post.

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