Gov. LePage did not look like he was expecting a question about the dreaded Department of Labor mural when he was sitting on a panel of governors in a national forum on education Tuesday. But that’s what he got.

NBC anchor Brian Williams admitted that he didn’t know much about Maine, but wondered why its governor would order the removal of a mural that depicted, among other figures, “Rosie the Riveter,” who Williams noted helped the allies win World War II.

LePage laughed heartily and said that his objection was not with the content of the mural, but with the way it had been financed. Since the $60,000 paid to the artist could have been used to assist unemployed workers, he said, he ordered the painting put under “safe lock and key.” And until someone pays the price, “It stays hidden.”

The governor’s spokesman said that has long been LePage’s objection, but the media have failed to report it.

That’s news to us, and apparently we’re not the only one to miss it: Attorney General William Schneider has filed a content-based defense of LePage’s actions on free speech grounds, arguing that the mural depicted the views of the Baldacci administration and LePage was entitled to express his own by taking it down.

The governor should get his story straight. If he has no objection to the mural’s content, he should explain why the state’s lawyers are in court claiming that he does.