Even he knew this one was bad. Whether propelled by his own political instinct or pushed out in front of the microphones by his frantic inner circle of advisers, there Gov. Paul LePage stood Friday apologizing (sort of) for possession of a mouth that moves more quickly than his brain.

Or does it?

“I made one slip-up,” LePage told the media assembled in his Cabinet room two days after his now infamous claim that drug dealers named “Dee Money, Smoothy, Shifty” come to Maine from points south, sell their toxic products here and often “impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”

He now says he meant to say “Maine women.” And since 95 percent of Maine women are white, the governor apparently didn’t understand what all the ensuing fuss was about.

Nor does he grasp why this gaffe, perhaps more than any of the others that have littered his five years in the Blaine House, has done serious damage to Maine both inside and out.

More on that in a minute. First, one telling question that remains unanswered: Why, in the middle of a dissertation at a town hall meeting in Bridgton about Maine’s ongoing heroin crisis, did LePage sidetrack into sex in the first place?

This was more than just a momentary brain cramp. For 12 agonizing seconds, LePage stepped away from Dee Money’s, Smoothie’s and Shifty’s alleged heroin trafficking to note: “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

LePage later claimed no knowledge of Dee Money’s, Smoothy’s or Shifty’s race.

Baloney. At least two of the aliases belong to black men who in recent months have been arrested in Maine on drug or murder charges. Their photos appeared statewide in this and other newspapers, along with the police reports that LePage claims to study so assiduously.

As for the “white girl” reference, does LePage truly expect us to believe that what started out as “Maine women” in his brain somehow emerged as “white girl” by the time it exited his lips?

Far more logical is the reverse: The phrase “white girl” originated in LePage’s gray matter and proceeded unfiltered to his mouth for all the world to hear. It is, was and always will be what he meant to say in the first place.

Which brings us back to the fallout.

One would think, this being the era of Donald Trump and all, that an inconsequential governor from an out-of-the-way, northern New England state would have a hard time breaking into the national news cycle no matter how outrageous his behavior.

Not so Paul LePage.

From The New York Times to The Washington Post to CNN and MSNBC, LePage was once again here, there and everywhere on Friday.

And with each report on his “white girl” remark came the litany of his past transgressions – telling President Obama to “go to hell,” telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” the “Vaseline” reference to former state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to name but a few.

For anyone who truly loves Maine, it’s no longer just embarrassing to see this state’s once proud name reduced to so many national punch lines. It’s agonizing.

It’s also beyond counterproductive: The longer LePage portrays his state as a backwater of ignorance and intolerance, the less attractive Maine appears to the newcomers – of every age, religion and ethnicity – we so desperately need.

Instead, we get this endorsement from the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, described by the Southern Poverty Law center as one of the leading hate websites on the Internet: “Maine Governor Calls Out Black Drug-Dealers for Impregnating ‘Young White Girls’ … Excellent. Hail LePage!”

Perhaps more troubling is the impact of LePage’s comment right here at home.

As readers weighed in last week on coverage of the LePage brouhaha, a striking number claimed the governor was only speaking the truth.

“I’m no fan of LePage, but I saw nothing wrong with what he said,” wrote one reader named “yendor1152.” “It’s happening every day in every town and city throughout Maine. I’ve seen it myself, in Waterville.”

Now I’d be willing to bet that “yendor1152,” whoever he or she is, has never actually watched a heroin deal go down in Waterville. Nor has “yendor1152” been privy to a black drug dealer impregnating a white girl before heading back to Connecticut or New York.

What “yendor1152” has probably seen on occasion is a black man, maybe in the company of a white woman. And who knows, maybe once or twice that woman has been pregnant.

LePage, with his “one slip-up,” has now given “yendor1152” permission to fill in the blanks:

Black man now equals drug dealer.

White girl is no longer black man’s companion; she’s his victim.

And the baby? Without question, a child of mixed race is “another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

In short, if our esteemed governor can live in a world where black men are coming to almost-all-white Maine to poison our veins with drugs and have their way with our women, then why can’t “yendor1152” live in that world, too?

And if LePage can say insemination occurs “half the time” without offering so much as a single statistic to back up his claim, then who’s to say it doesn’t happen every time a young black man dares to take a trip north?

And so the stereotype grows ….

What makes this whole uproar so regrettable is that it was all so avoidable. Had LePage simply stayed on message Wednesday evening in Bridgton, had he focused laser-like on the drugs and not on the sex, Maine would not find itself now mired in one of the ugliest vestiges of the racism that has plagued this country for centuries.

Maine, the way life should be? The longer LePage sullies this state with his unique brand of crazy, the more he reduces that once-proud slogan to a painful paradox.

But hey, what can a man do when, by his own admission, he speaks with no filters?

Easy. Learn how to shut his trap.

 


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