Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage’s campaign said Thursday that he was joking when he said he was ready to punch a radio reporter.

In a video taped Tuesday, LePage chatted with Jennifer Rooks, host of Maine Watch on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. She mentioned that two MPBN radio reporters, A.J. Higgins and Susan Sharon, wanted to talk with him. LePage replied that he didn’t want to talk to either one.

Rooks said the reporters would find him after her interview with him, and LePage said, with a slight smile on his face, “I’m about ready to punch A.J. Higgins.”

“Don’t punch him!” Rooks said.

“Aw, come on!” LePage replied, still smiling.

LePage’s campaign manager, John Morris, said Thursday, “It was clearly a joke, and A.J. acknowledges that.”

Higgins said he didn’t think LePage was jesting when he said that he didn’t want to talk with the radio reporters. But when he mentioned punching him, Higgins said, LePage had a “half-smile.”

“He says he was joking so I’m going to accept him at his word,” Higgins said. “Beyond that, we’ve got work to do here, so let’s move on.”