Published in the Portland Phoenix; co-written with Shay Stewart-Bouley
About two weeks into his term, Governor Paul LePage has gone local as a follow-up to his telling President Obama "to go to hell," setting off a national media firestorm with an off-the-cuff remark literally telling the Maine NAACP "to kiss my butt." Seems the foot-in-mouth disease he suffers from wasn't limited to the gubernatorial campaign.
It started when the NAACP extended an invitation to LePage to attend various Martin Luther King Day events in the state, the most prominent being the Bangor chapter's breakfast held Monday, January 17, and the NAACP's annual dinner in Portland (actually held Sunday night). LePage declined to attend any of the events, despite the fact that Maine governors for the past 30 years have been in attendance, along with other state dignitaries of all political stripes.
As has been reported extensively from here to Washington to San Diego and beyond, LePage dismissed the equality-for-all NAACP as a "special interest" he would not "be held hostage by." The governor, a 62-year-old white man, went on to suggest that a 25-year-old Jamaican man would be better equipped to talk to the NAACP than the governor himself, saying, "My son happens to be black," and offering to send him to talk to the civil-rights group.
But a few elements went missing in the national narrative — and even went undercovered in the Maine media.
First, LEPAGE DOES NOT HAVE A BLACK SON. As Maine Public Broadcasting Network's Susan Sharon reported, 25-year-old Devon Raymond, who is not a US citizen but rather a Jamaican national, has never been formally adopted by LePage, though the governor and his wife are helping Raymond pay for college and have invited the man to family gatherings for several years.
Second, while some commentators have suggested that LePage's comments are attractive to his base (even while being repugnant to the majority of Americans), even some of the CONSERVATIVES AT THE CONSERVATIVE-BEACON ASMAINEGOES ONLINE FORUMS HAVE EXPRESSED CONCERNS about LePage's lack of tact and his inclinations to create controversy rather than progress.
Third, LEPAGE ALSO DIDN'T SAY HE WAS SNUBBING THE NAACP IN FAVOR OF THE MLK BREAKFAST HOSTED IN WATERVILLE by Spectrum Generations (a non-profit elder-services agency) and the local Rotary Club, which he did attend; announcement of that might have defused the controversy — except his appearance wasn't on the governor's schedule until after the brouhaha erupted.
And fourth, on Saturday, LEPAGE SPOKE AT MAINE RIGHT TO LIFE'S "HANDS AROUND THE CAPITOL" RALLY. No word on whether he exempts them from the "special interest" label or if they were holding him "hostage" — as he claimed the NAACP tried to.