WINSLOW – For about 12 minutes Friday, Gov. Paul LePage put aside tough political talk to read softly to an audience of more than 100 children.

But things briefly turned political during a question-and-answer period at St. John Catholic School when, among questions about what Maine means to him and what he wanted to be when he grew up, LePage took shots at the state’s public school system and its newspapers.

LePage, who read to the kindergarten- to sixth-grade students from “Baxter at the Blaine House,” said that when he was a kid, he wanted to drive a Pepsi truck when he grew up.

When a student asked the governor what his biggest accomplishment has been, he said, “My best accomplishment as governor is still yet to come. It’s improving the school system in our state.”

LePage said private schools like St. John are “showing the rest of the people in Maine that you’re getting the best education, and every child in Maine deserves to have the same good education that you’re all getting.

“By the time I’m done, education in Maine is going to be great,” he said.

LePage criticized Maine newspapers when a student asked him what his greatest fear as governor is.

“My greatest fear in the state of Maine: newspapers,” he said, to laughter from the children. “I’m not a fan of newspapers.”

Afterward, LePage talked more about newspapers with a Morning Sentinel reporter.

“There’s a lack of objectivity,” he said. “If they were fair and balanced, I would be a supporter.”

LePage said he doesn’t extend his criticism to other forms of media – TV and radio – because they don’t “spin” the news.

LePage said he believes the students can distinguish between fact and opinion. “Kids in this school — in this type of environment — are readers. They understand.”

LePage said newspaper circulation is dropping because “people have finally realized that what they read might not be the truth.”

Last year, during a presentation at Waterville Junior High School, LePage told 150 eighth-graders that reading newspapers in Maine is “like paying somebody to tell you lies.”

Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

bmccanna@centralmaine.com