Gov. Paul LePage on Saturday said he’s willing to meet with the NAACP, one day after his comments toward the group sparked outrage.
“The governor said today he’d be willing to meet with the NAACP to discuss issues regarding all Maine’s people,” said Dan Demeritt, LePage’s spokesman. No specific time for the meeting has been set, he said.
LePage made national headlines Friday when he said the NAACP could “kiss my butt” for questioning his decision to decline its invitations to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day events scheduled for this evening and Monday. The governor also called the group a “special interest” and said he wouldn’t be “held hostage” by special interest groups.
Rachel Talbot Ross, state director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and president of the group’s Portland branch, said she hadn’t heard from the governor’s office as of Saturday night but was “very pleased” that LePage had offered to meet.
She said one goal of a meeting would be to “educate the governor about the difference between a special interest group and the goals and agenda of the NAACP.”
Ross said she wants to “get beyond this and move toward a more respectful discourse” with LePage. “I do hope that the meeting can take place sooner, rather than later.”
Maine governors have historically attended Dr. Martin Luther King Day Jr. events, alternating between breakfasts in Portland and Bangor. For instance, Gov. John Baldacci attended the breakfasts for seven of his eight years in office, missing only 2009, when he was attending President Obama’s inauguration.
This year, the Portland NAACP is having a dinner this evening to mark the 30th anniversary of the celebration.
Demeritt declined to specify what personal commitments are keeping the governor from the dinner in Portland. LePage is scheduled to attend the funeral of a retired state trooper in Vassalboro on Monday, according to his office.
The NAACP on Saturday issued another news release containing further scathing criticisms of the governor and his comments.
“The tone Gov. Paul LePage has set just after 10 days in office should be an offense to all Mainers and the office he has been entrusted to lead with civility, honesty, and decorum fitting of our highest elected official,” Ross, the state NAACP director, said in the release.
“The Maine NAACP is very concerned that after several attempts to meet with the governor, over a period of eight months, coupled with a policy decision that will severely impact our immigrant brothers and sisters made on his very first day in office, that a pattern may be being established of failing to reach out and engage the diverse communities of Maine,” she said.
The NAACP, along with other groups, is planning a rally in Portland on Monday against LePage’s recent rescinding of an executive order that prohibited state workers, except for those in law enforcement, from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.
Demeritt said LePage, in being willing to meet with the NAACP, wants to get past this issue and address issues that are important to all Mainers.