PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage is sending handwritten missives to residents who’ve written to criticize him for his silence following racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
LePage responded to constituent Darcey Poulin on Aug. 16 by saying, “You must be reading the liberal press. Funny how you don’t listen until it suits your own bigotry.”
The Republican governor came under fire after echoing the comments of President Donald Trump, who said white nationalists and counterprotesters share blame for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of clashes over a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Authorities say one person was killed when a white nationalist rammed counterprotesters with his car.
LePage was initially silent, saying he was unaware of the situation. When he did speak out, he said both sides were “equally as bad.” He also likened the removal of Confederate monuments to removing a monument to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
LePage doubled down in one of his handwritten notes, telling Lauren Daly that “both groups should be taken to task for their behavior” and that Confederate monuments are part of history that shouldn’t be torn down, the Portland Press Herald reported .
Daly, in her message to LePage, wrote, “Silence in the face of immorality is tantamount to consent.”
LePage initially responded by scrawling on the message, “Return to sender. Who is the racist calling out folks who have nothing to do with this horrific tragedy.”
In a second message, he wrote, “My entire life I have spoken out against the (Ku Klux Klan). The anti-facists are no better, they are trying to erase history. Like or not history should stay in place, and we need to have future generations not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
He said his heart went out to two Virginia state troopers killed in a helicopter crash and concluded: “I stand for PEACE — you should too.”
A note about Charlottesville was also sent to LePage by Bren Goode, who shared the message with the Press Herald. LePage responded to Goode’s fax with his own note, saying, “Both parties to the events of Charlottesville are guilty of racism.”
LePage isn’t new to dashing off handwritten notes to critics. In 2015, LePage fueled a north-south division in Maine when he scolded a Cape Elizabeth resident, writing that she lived in a region where people “exploit those who are not so fortunate.”
Poulin said she was “shocked” by LePage’s response.
“I don’t feel like our Governor should be speaking to any of his constituents this way and feel like the public has a right to know how he responds to someone who doesn’t agree with his actions,” Poulin wrote.