AUGUSTA – Republican gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage apologized to Libby Mitchell, his Democratic opponent, on a morning radio show for a jab he made about Mitchell’s age during a weekend fundraising event.

“If Elizabeth is offended by it, my deepest apologies, because it was certainly never meant to offend her,” LePage said on the George Hale/Ric Tyler show on WVOM-103.9 FM.

“She’s worked very hard and she’s had a good career, and I just think that the issues should be brought up. My differences with Elizabeth Mitchell is on the policies.”

During a campaign and fundraising stop Saturday in Bath, the 61-year-old LePage had made a joke about the fact that Mitchell had just turned 70.

Mitchell was contacted Tuesday night at home for her reaction to his apology.

“I accept his apology, but I did not hear the radio show,” Mitchell said. “I do accept it. Now, lets move on.”

Mitchell said age should not be a consideration in a political campaign. “It should be about the issues,” said the grandmother of six.

When asked if she was offended, Mitchell said LePage was being “careless” when he made the joke.

“To poke fun at someone because of their age is inappropriate,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell said she remains active.

She rode a horse in the Windsor parade and skis during the winter months.

The comment also upset members of the Maine chapter of the AARP.

“To reject anyone just by virtue of their age, well, it’s just discrimination and shouldn’t be done,” Nancy Kelleher, state director of the AARP, was quoted as saying Monday.

On Tuesday morning, in an on-air conversation with Hale, LePage admitted to making the joke while criticizing media coverage of the comment.

“The fact of the matter is, yes, I made a joke about being 70, and then I went on to say she that she is a very formidable candidate,” LePage said of comments he made during a follow-up interview Saturday with a Maine Public Broadcasting reporter.

He complained that the MPBN reporter did not include his compliments to Mitchell in her coverage.

In an MPBN transcript of the follow-up interview provided to the Kennebec Journal, LePage said he did not think age should be a campaign issue. The transcript did not show comments from him praising Mitchell as a candidate.

Hale said this type of thing happens a lot in political campaigns.

“How do we keep this aboveboard, how do we keep this straight?” Hale asked.

“Well, from now on, what I am going to do is, I’m not going to make any comments to reporters unless it’s in writing,” LePage said.

Hale asked, “Really?”

“Yeah,” LePage said. “Because they won’t report what you say, they just report the spin that they want to put on it.”

A person at the LePage campaign said Tuesday there was no one available to speak to a reporter.

 

— Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]