Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said Thursday that removing statues and monuments for Confederate veterans and political figures was comparable — and would lead to — removing New York City’s memorial for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
In an interview with WGAN, LePage was asked about the comparison President Donald Trump made Tuesday between the white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, and the counter-protesters who demonstrated against them.
The rally was ostensibly planned to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park, though the white supremacist groups in attendance chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and Soil!” recalling Nazi rhetoric. They carried swastikas and Confederate flags. One counter-protester was killed when a man who had protested with white supremacists allegedly rammed his car into a crowd.
“What they’re standing for is equally as bad,” LePage said, referring to the counter-protesters. “They’re trying to erase history.”
“They should study their history,” he added later. “They don’t even know the history of this country and they’re trying to take monuments down. Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is.”
“To me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11,” he said. “It will come to that.”
It was an odd parallel. LePage was essentially comparing the Confederate States of America to 9/11 victims, and the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks to the Union Army.
“I condemn both sides,” LePage separately in the interview. “I think they’re disgusting — both sides.”
“I don’t think he came off strong enough on either one of them,” LePage said at one point, referring to Trump’s remarks Tuesday, in which the President said not everyone who attended the rally on the white supremacists’ side was worthy of condemnation.
LePage — who admitted he hadn’t known about the protest for days because “I don’t watch TV and I don’t read newspapers, because frankly, I believe newspapers are nothing more than pencil terrorists” — seemed to confuse the stated goal of the so-called “antifa” groups in attendance demonstrating against the white supremacists.
The label is short for “anti-fascist,” and represents individuals who disrupt white supremacist gatherings, sometimes with violence. LePage seemed to think the group’s goal was explicitly to tear down Confederate statues, even though they were not actively involved in the Charlottesville City Council’s vote to remove the statue of Lee.
WGAN co-host Ken Altshuler tried one more time near the end of the interview: “The issue that Donald Trump had was the implication that there is a moral equivalence between antifa and the KKK,” he said. “Would you agree, though that what the KKK stands for is at least morally — I mean, if you have to judge morality, what they stand for is less desirous— “
“I answered that,” LePage said. “I think they’re both morally wrong. I condemn both organizations. I think there’s no room for either of these organizations in the United States of America.”