Gov. Paul LePage’s obsession with stuffing a binder with news clippings and photographs — especially photographs — of drug dealers in Maine and then falsely claiming that nearly all are black or Hispanic is so ludicrous that it has prompted one of the country’s leading newspapers to call on the governor to resign.
“A three-ring binder has now exposed the three-ring circus of unhinged racism and ravings that are the hallmarks of Maine’s governor, Paul LePage,” The Washington Post said in an editorial Tuesday.
“I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state,” LePage said at a town hall meeting in North Berwick in August. “I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.”
Except that isn’t even close to what the governor’s scrapbook shows.
Of 93 pictures of people arrested for drug crimes in the binder, 57 are apparently white, according to a BDN count. The copies provided to media were black and white, so it is hard to discern the race of all of those who are pictured in the governor’s three-ring binder. The majority of the people included in LePage’s notebook are from Maine.
Many of the news releases and email notices included in his binder don’t include photos, which appears to irritate LePage. In repeated handwritten notes, the governor apparently instructs staff members to file photos in his binder, and he notes the cases in which the search for a photo is underway. “Get photo for my album,” LePage wrote in a March email about methamphetamine arrests in Belfast that did not include photographs. Other handwritten notes say: “Please be sure we get all mugs with release”; “no photos?”; “File pictures in my binder for poster historical value.”
The governor’s office released the notebook’s contents to journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on Monday after they requested them under the state’s Freedom of Access Act. The 148 pages are a collection of news clippings and emails from the Maine Department of Public Safety and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency about drug arrests and a couple of murder trials.
It is far from a complete accounting of drug crime in Maine, which LePage could have obtained from any of the several state agencies involved in staking out, apprehending, arresting and prosecuting those charged with drug crimes. Instead, it is as if the governor is trying to assemble a picture book of his racist version of reality, which is heavy on dark-skinned people doing bad things to white Mainers.
Because of this distortion of reality, The Washington Post editorial board wrote, “Mr. LePage threatens to remake his state’s image from a vacation paradise of surreal natural beauty to a hotbed of hatred.”
“He really should move on — by resigning and seeking help, in order to spare the people of Maine more of his wild-eyed ramblings,” it added.
This is a stinging but accurate rebuke of a governor who has overplayed the role of black and Hispanic people in Maine drug crime and, as a result, downplayed the role that white people, many of them from Maine, play. Acting as if Maine’s opioid epidemic is caused by people from New York and Connecticut is a distraction from the real cause — rising demand for heroin and other drugs here in Maine. Drug dealers aren’t coming to Maine to poison people. They’re coming here because there is a ready market for the drugs they are selling.
The governor should focus his attention on shrinking this market, not on collecting photos to prove his alternate and racist version of reality.