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Maine Gov Creates International Stir with Alleged - and Denied - Obama Remarks
08/21/2013   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Allegations that Maine Gov. Paul LePage accused President Barack Obama of racism are going global. The New York Times featured a lengthy article today dealing with LePage's history of provocative remarks, and a similar story was also published in the London Daily Mail. The governor denies saying that the president "hates white people." But his political opponents claim LePage has a habit of retreating from controversial misstatements, and are using the publicity surrounding the latest incident to criticize him. A.J. Higgins has more.

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Maine Gov Creates International Stir with Alleged Listen

This week, several Maine newspapers (Editor's note: The story was first reported by the Portland Press Herald) have reported that Gov. Paul LePage was overheard at a private Republican fundraiser saying that President Barack Obama "hates white people." The reports cite anonymous sources, and the governor has flatly denied making the comment.

But that hasn't stopped the story from exploding. The New York Times picked up the piece and used it to review a history of memorable remarks from the governor, ranging from his promise to tell "Obama to go to hell," to his suggestion that the NAACP can "kiss my butt." The story was also picked up in a British paper. And for LePage's opponents, the controversy provided a fresh opportunity to vilify Maine's chief executive.

"If the governor did make those comments, I think it's very unfortunate that he did," says Maine 2nd District Congressman - and gubernatorial candidate - Mike Michaud. "It puts Maine back in the headlines again in a negative light."

Michaud, a Democrat, spoke with reporters after a campaign stop in Falmouth about the impact the governor's alleged statement - or the news coverage it has generated - is having on the state. Michaud says LePage sends out negative messages to the rest of the country. And Michaud says he was particularly disturbed when LePage said, at one point, that students from Maine are "looked down upon."

"If I'm a CEO and if I'm going to spend millions of dollars, I'm not going to move that money to a state where the governor is very critical of his own state, number one," Michaud said. "Number two, it also hurts business here in Maine. If you have a governor that's very critical and doesn't put a positive light in the state of Maine, why would they want to invest their money?"

Michaud made these comments after a press conference in Falmouth, where Steve Woods, the only other Democrat in the 2014 race for governor, announced his withdrawal, and commitment to back Michaud. Woods says LePage is hurting Maine's image.

"I do business in all 50 states," Woods said. "I travel to all 50 states. Poeple are talking about Maine, and in many cases, they're not talking about what a great state we have. And in the digital age, it's having even more of an impact."

LePage's other political foe in 2014, independent Eliot Cutler, agrees. Cutler, who narrowly lost the governorship in 2010, says he's constantly asked about LePage while traveling across the country. And he says LePage's denial of the latest remarks fails the straight-face test.

"His denial that he said this has to be viewed in the context that he has said so many other things over the course of the last two-and-a-half years," Cutler says. "And yes, it's serious. It affects the way people think about the rest of us in Maine."

Calls made to the governor's office Wednesday were not returned by air time.


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