US & Canada

Maine governor apologises for 'racist' remarks about drug dealers

Maine Governor Paul LePage listens while speaking with an attendee to the 23rd Annual Energy Trade Technology Conference in Boston Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Governor LePage has a history of making controversial statements

The governor of the US state of Maine has apologised after he said drug dealers with names like "D-Money" were impregnating "white girls".

Governor Paul LePage, who has a history of making controversial statements, made the remarks while speaking about the state's heroin epidemic.

The governor's spokesman had initially said Mr LePage, who is white, was not making a statement about race.

But opponents said it was implied and called the remarks "fear mongering".

"I was going impromptu and my brain didn't catch up to my mouth," Governor LePage said on Friday. "Instead of Maine women, I said white women ... If you go to Maine, you can see it's 95% white."

Blunt talk

Mr LePage made his controversial comments at a town meeting in Bridgton, describing out-of-state dealers as "guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" and said "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before leaving".

"This is one of the most blatantly racist statements he's ever made," said Lance Dutson, a moderate Republican activist.

States, especially in the north-east, are dealing with a sharp rise in heroin use. How to treat addicts and curb lethal overdoses has become a major issue in the US presidential race.

His spokesman, Peter Steele, had earlier said Governor LePage was referring to the effect heroin addiction has on the state, not on issues of race.

"Race is irrelevant," Mr Steele told the Associated Press. "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."

Governor LePage is known for his blunt talk. In the past, he has told President Barack Obama "go to hell", and members of a state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to "kiss my butt".

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