Gov. Paul LePage took aim at Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) during a radio appearance Tuesday in response to a dustup between the civil rights icon and Republican President-elect Donald Trump. The governor’s controversial remarks came in response to comments Lewis made last week in which he declared that he does not believe that the billionaire reality TV star is a “legitimate president” due to alleged meddling by the Russian government in the November election. 

“I will just say this, John Lewis ought to look at history,” said LePage. “It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank-you would suffice.”

Lewis is most known for his role as a civil rights leader and for getting his skull fractured in Selma, Alabama, by state troopers while marching for the right of African-Americans to vote in March of 1964. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes is best known for paving the way for Jim Crow segregation laws by pulling the last of the federal troops out of the South, effectively ending federal enforcement of post-Civil War Reconstruction policies that had helped ensure freedom and the right to vote for former black slaves. The so-called “Compromise of 1877,” which was Hayes’ first act as president, was part of an unwritten agreement with segregationist Democrats to award Republicans the presidency in exchange for allowing the South to disenfranchise black voters and carry out a violent reign of terror against anyone who challenged the racist white social order. 

Rachel Talbot Ross, Maine NAACP state director said the effects of the governor’s insulting remarks “reverberate far beyond Maine’s African American community.” 

“Yesterday, our nation came together to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights leaders, including John Lewis,” wrote Talbot Ross. “It’s unfortunate the governor felt it was right to revise that history and disparage a congressman who, through his sacrifices, gave so much to ensuring our basic rights.”

Later that day, LePage told the Portland Press Herald that white people are being lumped together unfairly because northern white people fought in the Union Army, and “in 1964 when we were desegregating schools a lot of people from the North who went down to the South were killed for trying to help the blacks.”

“The blacks, the NAACP [paint] all white people with one brush,” LePage told the Press Herald. “To say that every white American is a racist is an insult. The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”

 


LePage reportedly added that some white people are also against slavery. “And now they paint one brush and say all whites are racists, I’m sorry, we’re not,” LePage said. “Some of us are abolitionists, I’m a strong abolitionist, I’m a strong Lincoln supporter, I’m a strong Grant supporter, I’m a strong Dwight D. Eisenhower supporter, I think LBJ did the right thing — I’m all in.”

Gov. LePage has often clashed with non-white people, once branding people of color as “the enemy,” accusing black people of selling drugs and impregnating white girls, declaring that African asylum seekers spread disease and once telling the NAACP to kiss his butt. 

Talks About the Constitution

On Tuesday, the governor also attacked 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for announcing that she will also boycot Trump’s inauguration on Friday because of the president-elect’s disparaging comments about women and minorities  as well as his comments about John Lewis and “threaten[ing] the constitutional values our country is based on.” 

“This election followed the Constitution,” said LePage. “We have had for 235 years, a general election followed by an electoral college, followed by the acceptance of Congress and it’s been a peaceful transition for 235 years. For some reason the left has become so hateful and … they’re trying to bully us out of believing our Constitution. Chellie Pingree, if she won’t attend on Friday, I would advise her to resign.”

Prior to the election, when polls showed Trump losing, the governor declared that the Constitution was “broken” and that the elections were not “legitimate.” The governor has also called the First Amendment to the Constitution “almost an embarrassment,” and in a separate radio appearance last Thursday, LePage repeated his call for government “oversight” over the press.

“It used to be that it was an admirable profession and … needed them very badly to have oversight over government,” said LePage on WGAN. “And now it’s turned out that government has to have oversight over them because objectivity, honesty and fair play is no longer a part of the media.” 

The governor did not elaborate on how he would set standards for honesty and objectivity, what government agency would regulate local news media and what the punishment would be for violating the governor’s code of media ethics. A spokesman for the governor did not respond to a request for clarification. Back in November, the governor also announced that he has plans to “get some laws out to bring civility” and “get regulations on civility against the Legislature,” but so far his office has not released a specific plan.