New controversy erupts over LePage comments about Muslim, blacks, Hispanics

Good morning from Augusta. In two speaking appearances Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage put himself back in the center of two race-related controversies, one he started and one touched off by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Trump prompted a national outcry and widespread condemnation in July when he criticized Khizr Khan, who spoke against Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Trump also questioned why Khan’s wife appeared on stage but did not speak at the convention.

The Khans’ 27-year-old son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber while deployed in Iraq. The Khans have become nationally known and continue to speak out against Trump.

LePage doesn’t like it and said so Wednesday on the Howie Carr radio show, which you can hear by clicking here. LePage’s interview, which touched on several topics, begins about 57 minutes in.

The governor’s comments about Khan came during a discussion of Adnan Fazeli, an immigrant from Iran who became a follower of the Islamic State while living in Maine before travelling to Turkey. Fazeli died on the Lebanese border while fighting on behalf of the Islamic State, a radical Muslim group that demonizes Western culture.

Carr equated Fazeli to the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013. LePage agreed.

“[Fazeli] is just another version of [the Tsarnaev brothers], then there are the mighty powerful ones like Mr. Kahn who is a con artist himself,” said LePage. “He uses the death of his son who is an American soldier which we respect and honor and he uses that to go after Trump, which I find very distasteful. then we find out that he’s a law partner with guess who? The attorney general of the United States.”

The Khan comment was brought to light — to me at least — in a Tweet from Gerald Weinand, who has long been a harsh critic of LePage.

At his weekly town hall forum Wednesday evening in North Berwick, LePage revived inflammatory comments made a previous town hall in January alleging that black drug dealers from outside Maine sell their drugs and impregnate white girls while they are here. The new comments appear in a report from Scott Thistle of the Portland Press Herald, which you can read by clicking here.

LePage said that since his January comments, which received national attention, he has kept a three-ring binder with information about alleged drug traffickers arrested in Maine. He said more than 90 percent of them “are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.”

“There are a whole lot of white girls, too, a whole lot of white girls,” LePage reportedly said. “In fact, in almost every single picture is a white Maine girl in the picture.”

Both of these comments came amid long, detailed and measured discussions about a range of important issues facing Maine. LePage will undoubtedly defend himself, as he has in the past, by accusing the media of focusing on the proverbial tree instead of the forest. The town hall comments drew immediate criticism.

“I’m disgusted that Paul LePage came to my town to make racially charged comments that will do nothing more than divide our state,” said Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves in a written statement. Eves lives in North Berwick but had previously said he did not plan to attend LePage’s forum.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine also chimed in and said white people are statistically more likely to sell drugs than black people.

We’ve reached out to LePage’s communications staff for an explanation of the Khan comments but have not yet heard back. We’ll also see if we can take a look at his scrapbook. You’ll read about it here if we do. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Mixing Ripple wine and Southern Comfort: ‘Purple Jesus Party’

Amid all of LePage’s public comments on Wednesday was a less-than-serious exchange with Howie Carr during a discussion about the referendum on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine. LePage said, as he has in the past that he experimented with pot as a young man but prefers beer and wine. He said in college, he and his buddies mixed Ripple wine — a cheap, high-alcohol vino — with Southern Comfort whiskey. They called the concoction ‘Purple Jesus Party,’ which Urban Dictionary says is actually a thing.

“We had a great time,” said LePage.

“Pouring Southern Comfort into wine?” said Carr. “That’s really weird, governor, no offense.”

LePage (laughing): “It worked really fast, too.”

I’m not about to try a Purple Jesus Party but I will disclose, in the interest of fairness, that I was once handed a drink in college that consisted of cheap brandy and melted Fla-Vor-Ice. We were out of mixers.

I drank it but hadn’t admitted that until now. Here’s our soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.