Updated at 1:30 pm EDT
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, New England’s only Republican governor, told a group of supporters that President Barack Obama “hates white people,” according to an account published last night in the Portland Press Herald based on two unnamed state lawmakers who told the paper they heard the comments.
The comments were made at a fundraiser on Aug. 12, according to the paper.
The Press Herald reports that, in speaking to reporters at the State House, LePage was asked about the allegations and said: “I never said that. You guys are all about gossip.”
The paper notes: “Two Republican lawmakers confirmed Monday they heard the governor make the comment during a Maine Republican Party fundraiser last week at the Belgrade home of John and Lisa Fortier. Both lawmakers asked that their names be withheld.”
Brent Littlefield, a campaign spokesman for the governor issued a statement to the paper that said: “It seems far-fetched for anyone, even a newspaper, to make an insinuation the governor is racist given his life history.” Littlefield declined to comment further about the incident.
This isn’t the first time that Obama, the first African-American president, has faced race-based criticism that the White House dismisses as patently untrue.
Glenn Beck, then a Fox News host, once accused Obama of being “a racist.” Beck proclaimed on “Fox and Friends” that Obama has “over and over again” exposed himself as “a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don’t know what it is.” When Fox’s Brian Kilmeadeon pointed out that many people in Obama’s administration are white, so“you can’t say he doesn’t like white people,” Beck continued. “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people, I’m saying he has a problem… This guy is, I believe, a racist.”
LePage, a Tea Party favorite, won in 2010 in a three-way race and faces re-election next year. He’s cut taxes in Maine and reduced the pension debt — though some in his own party worry that the governor’s accomplishments have been overshadowed by a lengthy string of gaffes.
Earlier this summer, LePage criticized a Democratic state senator who opposed the governor’s budget with another set of eyebrow-raising words: “Sen. Jackson claims to be for the people, but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline,” LePage said in a video broadcast by WMTV a local television station.
That prompted one top state Republican lawmaker, state Sen. Roger Katz, to pen an op-ed in the Press Herald saying he is “embarrassed” by the governor’s words. “The governor’s behavior is something I have never seen in Maine politics, and could never imagine coming from a Republican,” he wrote.
LePage has a rocky relationship with the state’s three main newspapers, which are controlled by S. Donald Sussman, a billionaire with a record of giving to Democrats. LePage said he would not speak to any of the three papers after one published an investigative account accusing the head of his Department of Environmental Protection, a former lobbyist, of protecting the interests of her former clients rather than the taxpayers.
The recent Obama comments reported by the Herald would not be the first time LePage made clear his disdain for the president. While on the hustings in 2010, LePage said: “As your governor, you’re going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying , `Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.”’