These days it seems like just being honest is enough to stir up a verifiable 5-alarm firestorm. Anything said off the top of the head gets tossed into the constant loop of the Internet, where even the most benign – and honest – commentary becomes food for the keyboard mafia. Suddenly you’re a meme, and your approval rating is tanking.
Just ask Maine’s Governor Paul LePage. In a conversation relating to Maine’s growing drug problems, LePage unwisely went very off-script, wading into waters where there is no safe haven.
The scenario: out of state drug dealers are coming in, creating a myriad of social and health issues for citizens of Maine. Now, ask most folks to describe, in detail, what’s happening, and you are likely to hear a scenario similar to what LePage attempted to relate. Unfortunately, he is not hanging out with his buddies, he was addressing the media, and he got his metaphor from early ‘90s gangsta rap.
LePage’s comments included references to “guys with names like D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty…” coming into town to deal drugs and “impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”
It doesn’t matter that most people might also look at the facts and offer a similar representation of the situation, and it doesn’t matter that some entertainers have been describing that scenario in music and on film for decades, an elected official simply can’t get away with that sort of commentary. Ever.
But it’s LePage’s “apology” that really got him in hot water.
“I was going impromptu, and my brain didn’t catch up to my mouth. Instead of ‘Maine women,’ I said ‘white women,'” LePage said, before adding the nugget that Maine is one of the nation’s whitest states.
Frustrated that he was just digging himself further into a hole, LePage tried to joke his way out, telling reporters, “I probably couldn’t get so many of you here without saying something foolish.”
And that, friends, is one of the worst mea culpas a white elected official can offer when confronted with saying something perceived as racist. “Foolish” is an understatement.
Even in “one of the whitest” states in the union, LePage will have some difficulty digging himself out of this one.