February 23, 2020
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Trump calls Maine Democrat an ‘animal’ after 2017 video of him joking about suicide resurfaces

Andrew Harnik | AP
Andrew Harnik | AP
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media Tuesday following a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

President Donald Trump called a Maine Democrat an “animal” after a nearly 3-year-old video of him joking about suicide resurfaced late last week.

In the 39-second video, which first surfaced in April 2017, then-chairman of the Leeds Democratic Committee Richard Fochtmann addressed an audience at a public forum held by the Maine Democratic Party about the need to encourage more young people to move to Maine before making his controversial remarks.

“Today I saw a thing and it said a lot of men, white men, were committing suicide, and I almost thought, ‘Yeah, great,’” he said, eliciting laughter from the audience. “Then I thought about it little more, and I thought maybe I shouldn’t say that out in public.”

White men accounted for nearly 70 percent of suicide deaths in 2017, and men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

That video resurfaced on Twitter on Friday afternoon, when it came to Trump’s attention and prompted his attack.

“What kind of an animal is this?” Trump tweeted Friday night.

In April 2017, Fochtmann’s remarks circulated in several conservative news websites, promoting the Maine Republican Party to call the remarks and laughter “disturbing.” The Maine Democratic Party called Fochtmann’s joke “offensive,” but also slammed Maine First Media for publishing a “selectively edited video.”

Fochtmann later told NBC affiliate News Center Maine that he apologized for his remarks at the event after another speaker said the joke offended her.

“It really wasn’t funny, and I’m sorry that I did say that,” Fochtmann told News Center Maine at the time. “I just happen to be a passionate, outspoken person, and sometimes I just engage my mouth before I engage my brain.”

Fochtmann declined to comment on the president’s remarks when reached by phone Sunday morning.

The video was first circulated by Maine First Media, a website created by Matthew McDonald of Bangor, who told the BDN in late 2017 that he sold it for “thousands” of dollars to a Nebraska man.

In the aftermath, Fochtmann resigned as chairman of the Leeds Democratic Committee. Fochtmann ran for the Maine Senate in 2016 against Republican Garrett Mason, who overwhelmingly won the District 22 race, according to the Maine secretary of state’s office.


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