To the delight of his supporters, Gov. Paul LePage used a news conference Friday as another opportunity to blame the Maine media for the fallout that follows whenever he makes derogatory comments in public.

His critical comments continue an us-versus-them theme – when it comes to the media in Maine.

“If you want to make it racist, go ahead,” he told reporters about his comment that out-of-state drug dealers – “guys with the name Dee Money, Smoothie, Shifty” – come to Maine to sell heroin and “half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

He returned again and again to the idea that the media were to blame, both for “not helping” combat drug addiction and for casting him in a negative light.

“In one of the movies of ‘Rocky’ there’s a quote in there, and I’ll just sort of paraphrase it,” he said to the reporters. “‘Youz don’t like me and I don’t like you.’ I’m going to tell you that I sincerely mean that.”

That combative stance has long appealed to many LePage supporters, who like the governor’s direct approach. In the last 24 hours, hundreds of people have written comments to that effect on the Press Herald’s website.

“It is my opinion that LePage has been a great leader for the state, although he doesn’t have a very good bedside manner agreed. We aren’t paying him to be dainty and play the PC game. I like the policies and the no nonsense business stance he has taken,” wrote 7T5IV. “I’ve read the Governors comments a few times now and I really don’t see what the problem is. His comments were not racist, nor is he a racist.”

Later, the same commenter, 7T5IV, told another commenter that his comment “makes it seem OK for the liberal media to claim racism against one of their enemies for political gain.”

BLAMING MEDIA ‘FASHIONABLE’

Others called out the governor for blaming reporters: “I don’t understand criticizing “the media” for reporting something the governor says, especially as foolish as this. They didn’t manufacture the words – they were his. It would be news if they DIDN’T report this,” Rabblerouser12 wrote. “Right … and another thing: The media didn’t make me think this was an ignorant racist comment. I thought it was so all on my own!”

Media experts said it’s common for politicians to blame the media instead of accepting responsibility for what they say.

“We’re in an era right now where blaming journalists for the public’s understanding of a story or perception is really fairly fashionable,” said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member for broadcasting and online journalism at the Poynter Institute. “(Donald) Trump has made something of a circus around it.”

During the news conference, LePage repeatedly disparaged the assembled reporters, sometimes directly and other times with snarky, backhanded compliments and multiple references to “you people.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not like you guys. I’m not a polished speaker,” he said. “Do I want to be perfect? No. If I were perfect, I’d be a reporter.”

Still later, “I admit it, I’m not as bright as you people.”

As he opened the session, he appeared to try to draw the reporters into a direct role combating drugs in Maine, accusing them of not reporting on the drug crisis.

“The point is, you’re not helping us with the drug dealers,” he said. “You’re not helping us to make it a really major issue.”

MAKING CONTEMPT KNOWN

Multiple Maine news outlets have reported extensively on the drug crisis and efforts in the courts, as well as the legislative and executive responses.

At another point, LePage responded directly to a reporter who questioned how he knew the media wasn’t properly covering the heroin situation, when he also claimed not to read Maine newspapers or watch broadcast news.

“You are the perfect example,” LePage said, gesturing to the reporter. “The only time I see you in this building talking to me is when you are criticizing me.” The reporter said that wasn’t true, and LePage responded, “That is absolutely true.” The reporter said he had requested several meetings with LePage and had been denied.

Over the course of his administration, LePage has held infrequent news conferences and rarely does one-on-one interviews. Staff members typically respond to media queries, and reporters have had to try to catch LePage coming in and out of meetings in order to ask questions.

LePage not making himself widely available to the media isn’t a surprise, Tompkins said.

“When you make as many misstatements as (LePage) does, I can understand why he would avoid subjecting himself to scrutiny,” he said. “But it’s not the journalists that get harmed. It’s the public for lack of access. This isn’t a favor he’s doing to sit down and explain what he’s thinking. It’s his obligation. He’s an elected official, he’s not coronated.”

LePage has made his contempt for Maine media well known.

At a September town hall meeting in Bucksport, he opened by saying he was sorry that reporters were in the audience, because “they will write anything they want, irrespective of the facts,” according to the Ellsworth American. Later that month, at a Farmington town hall meeting, he denigrated the media again.

“You want to read the daily newspapers in the state of Maine? You get what you get,” he said, according to a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report. “They’re so bad that I don’t even trust the obituaries.”

HISTORY OF DISCONTENT

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, LePage stormed out of a news conference when questioned about his property taxes in Maine.

He blasted the media during his inauguration speech in 2011. Not long after taking office, reporters were told to leave a ceremonial signing of a bill to require training school employees on suicide prevention and awareness. LePage then complained during the ceremony that the media wouldn’t cover the event because it was a positive news story.

In 2012, 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.”

For some time in 2013, he banned administration contact with the Press Herald and its two sister newspapers after a series of articles on LePage’s top environmental regulator and how her department’s actions benefited her former lobbying clients in private industry. At the time, his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, refused to provide a public document and said the administration would no longer participate in stories reported by the three newspapers because the company “had made it clear that it opposed this administration.”

Sometimes his attacks are more personal.

LePage has joked about shooting a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist, punching a reporter from Maine Public Broadcasting Network and blowing up the Portland Press Herald building. On the eve of his re-election, at a rally with Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Portland, he said he wanted to put Press Herald columnist and frequent critic Bill Nemitz on “a suicide watch” by getting re-elected.

On Friday, he told the reporters they were “in the back pocket” of bloggers – which he said he “found appalling” – then immediately lamented that “it’s just that we just don’t have blogs that are friendly to our administration.”

Tompkins said an attack stance can help politicians in the short term, like a pitcher throwing a fast inside pitch to get a batter to back off the plate.

“If you’re not getting the coverage you want, the first response is to attack the messenger and see if you can get them to back off,” Tompkins said. “I don’t know of any politicians who succeeded because they attacked the media. It generally doesn’t work very well.

“Usually what it does is sell more papers and make the politician look weak.”

Steve Mistler contributed to this report.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine


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