(CNN) – Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday used racially-charged language to accuse people from outside his state of fueling a substance abuse epidemic, then fleeing home after “they impregnate a young, white girl.”
Asked at a town hall meeting what his administration was doing to combat the state’s drug issues, LePage referenced new legislation aimed at traffickers, then delivered what many are describing as a racially-charged explanation.
“These aren’t the people who take drugs,” LePage said, in comments first reported by the Portland Press Herald. “These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These type of guys. They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we’ve go to deal with down the road.”
A spokesman for LePage, Peter Steele, said the governor wasn’t discussing race.
“The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant. 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,” Steele said.
LePage, a Republican, has been a controversial figure in Maine for years. But it’s not only partisan opponents taking aim at LePage. On Thursday night, a GOP operative named Lance Dutson in a blog post to his GetRightMaine.com website called this “one of the most offensive statements yet from this governor.”
LePage has endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the GOP presidential nomination.
Christie, who chaired the Republican Governors Association during LePage’s successful 2014 re-election bid, has described his colleague from Maine as “a great friend” and called his backing “an incredible honor.”
In an interview with CBS the day after LePage’s 2014 victory, Christie described him “as just one of the most decent, honorable people I’ve ever met — wears his heart on his sleeve, loves his state, has an amazing personal story.”
Christie’s campaign did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment Thursday night.