AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday that he misspoke when he said on a radio talk show that America needed Donald Trump to show “authoritarian power.”

What he meant to say in Tuesday’s comments on WVOM of Bangor was “authoritative,” LePage said during a wide-ranging, impromptu 33-minute press conference in the governor’s Cabinet Room at the State House. LePage also reiterated his support of Trump and his disdain for the press, at one point suggesting that anybody who listened to what he said Tuesday would have known what he meant unless they were a “moron.”

LePage also said he was worried the U.S. government would collapse under a Hillary Clinton presidency, and he called President Barack Obama a “dictator” who abused his executive authority.

“I think he has failed the American people, he has not worked with the Congress and what he has done, he has used the executive office to put regulations on our country that is going to take us decades to get out of,” LePage said. “Donald Trump on the other hand is a very powerful personality and he has a very authoritative persona.

“Let me explain what I mean by that. When he is in a room people notice. He does not have to go behind closed doors with community activists to get things done and hurt American people, that’s really, what I really meant.”

By holding a press conference, LePage retreated from a vow he made on Sept. 6 to speak only to the talk radio hosts and no other media, but when asked by the Associated Press if he was now speaking with reporters again, LePage said he wasn’t.

“I wouldn’t speak to you, if you guys didn’t make such a big deal about a missed word,” he said. “I have no respect for you at all, make no bones about that, I think that you all live in a world of words and your life is to destroy people instead of doing the good things.”

The Press Herald did ask LePage’s communications staff shortly after Tuesday’s radio show if the governor was suggesting authoritarian rule for the United States. LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele said in an email that LePage was not. However, Steele also said neither the governor nor his staff would answer any additional questions about the radio show.

LePage said Wednesday that he supports Trump because the U.S. is facing a $20 trillion debt that will hurt the nation for decades to come. However, the governor again said that Trump was his third choice among Republican candidates. He has previously said he favored New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and his second choice was Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

When pressed about which Trump policies he liked best, LePage responded, “I don’t know enough about them, I am just campaigning.”

The governor then went on to attack an entire generation of Americans, paraphrasing a quote he said he had heard recently: “The children of the Greatest Generation have sold the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation down the tubes,” LePage said.

“I’m outspoken and I’m blunt but I’ll tell you what, every single day of my life I get up and I work for the Maine people,” LePage said. He said his efforts, including a recent No. 1 ranking among all governors for economic policies by the conservative Cato Institute, had been overlooked by the Maine press corps.

“I am a lot of things but I have not been 100 percent incorrect the last six years,” LePage said. “But according to your writings I’m about the biggest dumb ass there is on the face of the Earth and coming from you all it’s a compliment.”

LePage’s recognition by the Cato Institute was actually reported in all three of the state’s major daily newspapers, including the Press Herald, and at least one Maine TV station, according to an internet search.

LePage then began to leave the room, but when reporters asked if he would take any questions, he returned to the podium saying, “What kind of questions would you have of such an idiot?”

Set before LePage’s podium were what appeared to be Russian nesting dolls with the images of former President Bill Clinton and various women Clinton has been accused of having affairs with, including former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who LePage also mentioned during the radio show Tuesday. The smallest doll of the set included an image of Hillary Clinton. LePage said he was given the dolls as a gift during a trip he made to Russia when he was mayor of Waterville in 2008.

LePage indicated the dolls represented how other countries viewed the U.S. and showed American respect was in decline on the global stage – a theme Trump has sounded repeatedly as he campaigns for the White House.

The comments that LePage sought to clarify were uttered Tuesday morning to the hosts of the WVOM talk show.

“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress, and every single day we’re slipping into anarchy,” the governor said to hosts Ric Tyler and George Hale.

That statement generated intense criticism from Democrats and civil libertarians, who accused LePage of calling for an undemocratic form of government. LePage was the subject of national media coverage, much of it critical.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines an authoritarian as someone who advocates, practices or enforces unquestioning obedience to authority, as that of a dictator, rather than individual freedom of judgment and action. The same dictionary defines “authoritative” as someone or something having power, influence or the right to control and make decisions.

LePage was also critical in the talk show interview of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, along with former Republican Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice. Rice called for Trump to leave the race for the White House, while Collins has said she will vote for neither Trump nor Clinton. The senator, who has high favorability ratings with the state’s voters, also criticized Trump for lewd comments he made about women that were recorded in 2005 and released last week.

At Wednesday’s press conference, LePage remained critical of Collins saying those inside the Beltway in Washington had been elected by “us peons,” but they ultimately served themselves.

LePage has been dismissive of the “Access Hollywood” video of Trump saying, among other things, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” On Wednesday, LePage repeated that the video was 11 years old, and he asked if there was anybody who hadn’t made some mistake in 11 years.

The governor also went on to attack U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, for being divorced from his first wife after he returned home from six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain, a Naval pilot in the war, was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese Army in 1967 and was held prisoner and tortured until 1973. when he was released.

McCain, who has been criticized by Trump for being captured, had supported the Republican nominee until last week, when he withdrew his endorsement after Trump’s lewd comments about women surfaced.

LePage was also divorced from his first wife, and he never served in the U.S. Armed Forces in any capacity until he became the Commander in Chief for the Maine National Guard by virtue of his election as governor.

Trump is expected to be in Bangor on Saturday and LePage said he would likely attend the rally, although he said he was unsure yet if he had been invited by the Trump campaign.


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