PORTLAND, Maine -- Blunt-spoken Republican Gov. Paul LePage said out-of-state drug dealers are impregnating "young white" girls, and his remarks were quickly denounced by critics on Thursday as racial fear-mongering.
LePage, talking about Maine's heroin epidemic, described out-of-state drug dealers as "guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" and said "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave."
LePage, who's white, didn't describe the races of the drug dealers on Wednesday during a town meeting in Bridgton, and a spokesman said Thursday he wasn't making a comment about race.
But moderate Republican and LePage critic Lance Dutson, who called attention to the remark, said the governor was playing to people's racial fears.
"This is one of the most blatantly racist statements he's ever made," said Dutson, a former CEO of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center who helped create the GOP group Get Right Maine to combat extremism. "One of the things that's offensive about it is that it's reminiscent of this fear-mongering in American history that people would like to think is long gone."
"Governor LePage should be ashamed. What a terrible example for our children," House speaker Mark Eves, a Democrat, told CBS affiliate WGME. "Now more than ever we need leaders that bring us together to work towards making life better for families, not worse. The Governor's crude comments have no place in Maine or any other decent society."
The president of the NAACP's Bangor chapter, Michael Alpert, said the governor's comments were "sad" and "foolish."
LePage's chief of communications, Peter Steele, insisted the governor wasn't talking about race when he made the comment.
"Race is irrelevant," Steele said via email. "What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers. His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood, too. We need to stop the drug traffickers from coming into our state."
LePage is known for speaking his mind, and it sometimes gets him into trouble. He said on the campaign trail that he'd tell President Barack Obama to "go to hell," and then soon after he was elected to his first term he told the Portland chapter of the NAACP to "kiss my butt."
He previously likened the IRS to the Gestapo, called protesters "idiots" and said a political foe liked to "give it to the people without Vaseline."