Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, isn’t known for holding his tongue. It’s deeply troubling, then, that while other elected officials made a point of speaking up, it took LePage nearly three days to make a mealy-mouthed comment on the racist violence that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

The violence erupted Saturday afternoon when alt-righter James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people gathered as a counterprotest to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured in the attack; Fields has been charged with homicide and is being held without bail.

The condemnation from most of the nation’s governors was timely and bipartisan. By Monday afternoon, 39 governors — including every governor in New England — had commented on the tragedy, according to Maine Public Radio.

But Maine’s chief executive didn’t say anything until Tuesday morning, when he told Bangor-based WVOM: “My heart goes out to the families of the injured. I feel it’s a horrific act. It’s an issue that happened in Virginia and I think Virginia authorities should be dealing with it. I just hope it never happens in Maine again because it happened here in 1922.”

We appreciate the nod to Maine’s shameful history (the Ku Klux Klan was a political and cultural force here in the 1920s and helped elected a governor in 1924), but for LePage to say that the Charlottesville events are of limited concern outside Virginia is deeply shortsighted. While Maine hasn’t seen deadly violence of the kind that unfolded in Virginia, vile, racially charged remarks of the kind that embolden violent people are a regular occurrence here. One of the chief offenders: Gov. LePage.

A month after he started his first term in office, he told the NAACP that it could “kiss (his) butt” if it didn’t like him skipping the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. Last year, the governor said that black drug dealers who impregnate “white girl(s)” were mainly responsible for the state’s opioid crisis. In January, he suggested that civil rights icon John Lewis should say “thank you” to white people for ending slavery in the U.S.

What’s more, LePage hasn’t hesitated to cross state lines when he has a chance to get involved in an issue he cares about — like his 2015 decision to file a brief in support of a Virginia school district’s misbegotten ban on transgender students using the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Gov. LePage should have responded to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville by automatically, immediately and unequivocally condemning it. Instead, he’s chosen to ignore a level of bigotry and hatred that has caused a national crisis — one from which Maine is by no means excluded.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.