Maine Gov. Paul LePage once again linked the issues of race and drug trafficking Tuesday, even as he tried to clarify previous statements that have drawn widespread bipartisan criticism.

And once again, LePage didn’t explain why he has repeatedly connected the two issues amid a heroin trafficking and addiction crisis in Maine involving people of all racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Speaking during his weekly call-in session with Bangor radio station WVOM-FM, LePage reiterated his claim that all the mug shots of arrested drug suspects he has compiled since January in a three-ring binder were from reports published in the media. He first mentioned the mug shots during a town hall meeting in North Berwick last Wednesday, when he said that more than 90 percent of those arrested for trafficking heroin or fentanyl in Maine since January were black or Hispanic individuals from more urban areas in Connecticut and New York.

“What I did is, every drug arrest, we get the story and the people,” LePage said Tuesday on the radio show. “And when it comes to meth labs, they are essentially all Maine white people. When it comes to the heroin epidemic, it’s just the opposite. And, you know, whether it’s right or wrong, I’ll leave you to make that judgment. But I spoke fact. Now, they are saying … every day they say you can’t do it because of the racially charged atmosphere in our country. But the same token is all lives matter. That’s the bottom line: All lives matter. And the majority of people dying are Mainers.”

It was at least the third time since the North Berwick meeting that LePage has publicly repeated some variant of his original statement linking the race of drug traffickers coming into Maine with the state’s growing opiate crisis. In January, LePage caused a similar controversy – and generated national headlines – when he said men with names such as “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” bring heroin into Maine and “half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

LePage’s persistence in bringing up race in the context of drug dealing is causing growing discomfort in Republican political ranks, adding to calls for his resignation among his critics and frustrating leaders of Maine’s black community.

The Rev. Kenneth Lewis, pastor of Green Memorial AME Zion Church in Portland, said people in his diverse congregation – including black, white, African and French-Canadian members – have been offended “to a person” by the remarks.

“It’s unfortunate that he cannot see the error of his way,” Lewis said Tuesday afternoon after listening to the WVOM call-in show. Lewis said he doesn’t believe the governor’s statements “advance the conversation” and that news articles clearly show “people of various hues” have been involved in bringing opiates into Maine.

“To interject race into this epidemic, this problem, creates a scapegoat,” said Lewis, who will participate Thursday in a panel discussion at Reiche Elementary School on racism, diversity and inclusiveness. “I think there needs to be policy. I think there needs to be treatment. I think there needs to be law enforcement, and all of these parts need to work together.”

CRITICISM FROM NEW ENGLAND OFFICIALS

Maine has experienced a flood of heroin shipments, as have other states, during what has become a nationwide opiate addiction crisis. While some of those arrested for selling heroin in Maine have been minorities from out-of-state, numerous white Mainers also have been arrested for the same crime.

Statistics on Maine arrests for making or selling all types of drugs in 2014, the last year for which FBI Criminal Justice Information Service data is available, show that only 14.1 percent of the 1,211 people charged were black.

LePage also linked race and drug trafficking Monday during the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Boston, drawing a sharp rebuke from Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut and the mayors of several Massachusetts towns that LePage repeatedly names as heroin sources.

“The opioid crisis and the drug crisis in our communities is really serious, and we don’t have time for this type of nonsense, of name-calling and demonizing of people,” said Mayor Dan Rivera of Lawrence, Massachusetts. “I’m sure that the people of Maine would rather have their governor talk about how they can add more treatment beds and more detoxes and more counseling instead of picking on a small city in Massachusetts.”

LePage’s staff has faulted the media for failing to note that when he talks about the number of black and Hispanic drug dealers who have been arrested, LePage is referring specifically to dealers in heroin rather than methamphetamines, which are most often distributed by whites in Maine.

But neither LePage nor his staff have explained why it’s important to identify the race of a drug dealer.

MINORITIES IN MAINE ‘NOT INVOLVED’

LePage appeared to try to clarify Tuesday – with some friendly guidance from WVOM co-host Ric Tyler – that during the North Berwick town hall, he was talking about drug traffickers who bring heroin and fentanyl into Maine, not about Maine’s black or Hispanic communities.

“I was talking about the trafficking, and if legislators think it is something different, then they should have been attending, really, because I think it’s pretty clear that I have been talking about traffickers,” LePage said. “And I will tell you another thing: It’s very clear that I say ‘out-of-state’ because we have a minority population in Maine and they are not involved.”

State Sen. Justin Alfond, a Portland Democrat who serves as the Senate minority leader, said LePage is entirely wrong in his assessment.

“I think what you’re seeing is the erratic behavior that most of us (in the Legislature) have seen for six-plus years now,” Alfond said. “His stories, lack of facts and manipulation of the issues is offensive and disturbing.”