LISTEN | Gov. LePage challenges lawmaker to 'prove I'm a racist' in obscene voice mail

Gov. Paul LePage left an angry obscenity-laced voice mail for a Westbrook lawmaker Thursday, calling him a "son-of-a-(expletive), socialist (expletive)" and challenged him to "prove I'm a racist." (WGME)

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- Gov. Paul LePage left an angry obscenity-laced voice mail for a Westbrook lawmaker Thursday, calling him a "son-of-a-(expletive), socialist (expletive)" and challenging him to "prove I'm a racist."

The governor made a series of racially charged comments about drug dealers arrested in the state at a town hall Wednesday, saying 90 percent of them are black or Hispanic.

On Thursday, a reporter at the state house told LePage Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook criticized LePage’s comments. LePage then left an angry, threatening, and obscene voicemail for Gattine.

[Related: ACLU requests black, Hispanic arrest records following LePage’s controversial comments]

WARNING: Gov. LePage’s message to Rep. Gattine contains obscenities.

“I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-(expletive), socialist (expletive)",” LePage said in the audio of the call. “I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you.”

According to the Bangor Daily News, LePage also told a reporter he would like to have a gun duel with Gattine and that he’d point his gun “right between” Gattine’s eyes. LePage now says those comments were a metaphor.

Gattine is a second-term lawmaker and member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. He has long clashed with LePage and his administration, particularly on health care issues, according to the BDN.

Gattine told the BDN that calling someone a racist “is one of the worst things you could ever call a person and I have never called anyone that.”

“I don’t think racially charged remarks like that are at all helpful for trying to solve the crisis we have with heroin overdoses,” said Gattine. “The biggest problem we have right now is not getting addicts the treatment they need. … I’m not going to throw fuel on the fire by making this about name calling.”

LePage says that he never heard Gattine directly call him a racist.

Friday, LePage apologized to the people of Maine, but not to Gattine.

"If he wants to exchange apologies, I'd be more than happy to do that," LePage said. "And I also challenge him to come to me next week and let's talk about racism and let's talk about what I said."

Gattine says the governor has a history of crossing the line.

"When I got that message yesterday my first thought was that I was really glad that I wasn't in the room with him when he left it 'cause he really sounded like somebody who was about to commit physical violence," Gattine said.

House Democratic leaders condemned LePage’s comments in a statement:

“Paul LePage is not mentally or emotionally fit to hold office. His words and actions have crossed a line. Threats of violence are never acceptable and cannot be tolerated in civilized society.”

In a statement released Friday afternoon, the governor said he is sorry for leaving the angry, threatening, and obscene voicemail:

“When someone calls me a racist, I take it very seriously. I didn’t know Drew Gattine from a hole in the wall until yesterday. It made me enormously angry when a TV reporter asked me for my reaction about Gattine calling me a racist. It is the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person. So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of. I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state. Legislators like Gattine would rather be politically correct than protect ruthless drug dealers than work with me to stop this crisis that is killing five Mainers a week.”
“When I said I was going after Gattine, I meant I would do everything I could to see that he and his agenda is defeated politically. I am a history buff, and I referenced how political opponents used to call each other out in the 1820s—including Andrew Jackson, the father of the Democratic Party. Obviously, it is illegal today; it was simply a metaphor and I meant no physical harm to Gattine. But I am calling him out to stop giving inflammatory sound bites and get to work to end this crisis that is killing Mainers, destroying families and creating drug-addicted babies, all so the drug dealers Gattine is protecting can make a profit.”

Westbrook lawmakers released a scathing letter calling LePage's remarks "insanity:"

Governor LePage says he has no intention of resigning over this, unless all of the state lawmakers that he believes are corrupt also resign.

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