PORTLAND, Maine — Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Friday criticized the Maine Republican Party for what he called “dirty, gutter politics,” after the GOP attempted to blame him for a video containing a crude comment about U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
The video was created by Knack Factory — a production company co-run by BDN blogger and columnist Alex Steed. The company followed Michaud for a day in July in an effort to depict a day in the life of the candidate, according to Steed. The video, which painted a flattering picture of Michaud, was posted Thursday evening on Knack Factory’s website and on Steed’s blog.
However, it wasn’t the footage of Michaud on the campaign trail that generated controversy; the video’s soundtrack prominently featured “King of Maine,” a song by Wells-based rapper Spose, whose real name is Ryan Peters. The portion of the song included in the video contains the lyric “I’m the king of Maine, the king of Maine. I’ve got Susan Collins giving everyone brain.”
“Brain” is slang for oral sex.
On Friday morning, the Maine GOP sent out an email blast to reporters with the headline “Michaud suggests Sen. Collins performs graphic sexual acts; Maine GOP condemns.” It blamed Michaud for making the video, and called on him to apologize to the Republican senator. The party also said Michaud had collaborated with Knack Factory in creating the video.
Later, in a separate statement after several media outlets had reported the controversy, the Maine GOP, through its spokesman, David Sorensen, said Michaud was clearly “heavily associated” with the video’s creation and should apologize for the “filth it contained.”
Steed, who said he was unaware of the lyric’s meaning, removed the video from his BDN blog and website, and later posted a version without the offending lyric. Michaud’s campaign, which had shared the video on social media Thursday night, stopped distributing it after learning the lyric’s meaning. The campaign said the candidate and his staff were not aware of the slang meaning of the lyric when it promoted the video on social media.
When asked for comment, Collins’ campaign spokesman Lance Dutson said, “No comment.”
Michaud, who arrived back in Maine from Washington, D.C., on Friday evening, met with media at the Portland Jetport, where he said he was “angry and disappointed” with the Republicans for attempting to pin the offensive comment on him.
“Neither my campaign, nor I, had anything to do with the production of that video, and the Republicans know it,” he said. “I just left that kind of dirty and gutter politics in Washington, D.C. It’s outrageous. Washington right now is broken because of the petty attacks and outright lies like the ones we see here today.”
Michaud called on the Republicans to apologize to him, and to Collins, whose name he said was tarnished by her own party.
He also criticized the “arrogant activists” within the Republican Party who sought to put the rapper’s lyrics into his mouth, and said he had spoken with Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett, whom he considers a friend. Michaud did not identify those he called “arrogant activists” by name
“It doesn’t make the Republican Party look good at all, that they’re coming out with outright lies,” he said. “I know Rick has a job to do as state party chair, but he has to get his staff in line, and focus on facts.”
Bennett on Friday said he had spoken with Michaud, and was looking into the concerns raised by the congressman. He said the suggestion in the GOP news release that Michaud himself had made the suggestive comment was “inappropriate,” but stood by the questions raised about Michaud’s involvement in the video.
He defended his staff, saying they had made a reasonable assumption that Michaud’s campaign was involved in the video, given the rosy picture it painted of the Democrat, and the fact that his campaign had so quickly shared the video after it was posted online.
“It looked like a campaign video,” he said. “The people clearly had access, and the campaign promoted it. It had all the look of collaboration.”
Bennett also said Michaud’s campaign deserves “some responsibility” for endorsing the video briefly on Thursday evening, and for allowing a company to shoot him for a day without an understanding of what that company would do with the footage.
“When you’re running for executive office, you have to take responsibility for the people you surround yourself with, who you give access to,” he said.
When asked, Michaud said he didn’t buy the idea that he was responsible for the actions of any group to which he gives access.
“The fact is they just wanted to follow us around for a day, to see what a member of Congress does,” he said. “I’d do that for anyone, time permitting.”
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.