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Foot-in-mouth Maine governor apologizes for racial comment

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – Gov. Paul LePage, whose off-the-cuff comments frequently stir controversy, apologized Friday for his remark about out-of-state drug dealers impregnating “young white” girls, calling it a slip of the tongue and saying he didn’t mean to inject race into a discussion of Maine’s heroin epidemic.

The Republican governor also blamed reporters for unfairly focusing on the slip-up in which he described the drug dealers as “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” and added “half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”

“I was going impromptu, and my brain didn’t catch up to my mouth. Instead of ‘Maine women,’ I said ‘white women,'” LePage said, noting that Maine is among the nation’s whitest states.

He also chastised the assembled reporters, saying, “Get your heads out of the sand, please.” He added: “I probably couldn’t get so many of you here without saying something foolish.”

The governor’s comment Wednesday evening in Bridgton drew criticism from Maine and beyond after a Republican activist called attention to it a day later. LePage’s spokesman said Thursday that the governor wasn’t making a comment about race.

State Senate Democratic leader Justin Alfond, a frequent critic of LePage, said the governor’s comments were at best “careless or poorly stated.” The president of the NAACP’s Bangor chapter, Michael Alpert, called the remarks “sad” and “foolish.”

LePage is known for speaking his mind, and it sometimes gets him into trouble.

During his first campaign for governor in 2010, he said on the campaign trail that he’d tell President Barack Obama to “go to hell,” and soon after he was elected to his first term, he told the Portland chapter of the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” He previously likened the IRS to the Gestapo, called protesters “idiots” and said a political foe liked to “give it to the people without Vaseline.”

LePage said Friday that his “kiss my butt” remark was mischaracterized. He also said he’s passionate about addressing the state’s drug problem. Maine was on pace for a record year for drug overdose deaths in 2015; the final figures have not yet been tallied.

“I made a mistake and I’m not perfect, but I will not stop correcting myself and bringing the issue at hand: drugs, drugs and more drugs. Beatings, beatings and more beatings. We have people dying. We have families being destroyed,” he said.

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