Maine Gov. Paul LePage jokes about blowing up newspaper building

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine
Jim Bowdoin /

Gov. Paul LePage, R-Maine, was sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet simulator at a Pratt & Whitney facility on Friday, and he was asked what he would like to do.

"I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up," he replied, according to the Press Herald.

A short time later, when a reporter from WMTW asked LePage whether he had any targets in mind, he identified the Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News. The Daily News first reported the remarks.

Though LePage has obviously had an adversarial relationship with both newspapers, a spokeswoman clarified that his response was clearly a joke.

LePage's official Twitter account similarly downplayed the incident: "Threatened? It was a joke, folks."

It's safe to say not everyone is laughing.

Press Herald publisher Lisa DeSisto criticized LePage's "misguided sense of humor," saying the joke was "irresponsible in this day and age, especially when it comes from the leader of our state."

A spokesman for Eliot Cutler, an independent who challenged LePage in 2010 and will seek a rematch in 2014, said the governor spoiled an opportunity to highlight the success of Pratt & Whitney with his "cavalier comment."

LePage has had a series of public spats with Maine newspapers since taking office. He issued a gag order in June barring administration officials from speaking with reporters from the Press Herald and two other papers after a series of critical articles about LePage's top environmental regulator.

And on at least three occasions, LePage has warned audiences about the dangers of newspapers. During an appearance with schoolchildren in February, he was asked about his greatest fear as governor,

"My greatest fear in the state of Maine: newspapers," he replied, according to the Central Maine Morning Sentinel.