AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter to Republican lawmakers Friday apologizing for “any difficulty that remarks recently reported in the press” had caused them.
The governor has been under fire for his comments at an Aug. 12 political fundraiser in Belgrade, during which he reportedly accused President Barack Obama of disliking white people.
“Let me be clear, I do not believe that President Obama dislikes any racial group,” the governor wrote in his letter.
“From my own family experience, I have seen and felt the effects of poverty and prejudice on our society,” he continued. “I believe that President Obama had perhaps the most unique opportunity in history to bring the country together. He could have been a great unifier for this nation. It is unfortunate that the President has missed that opportunity. It is also unfortunate that the media seized on this opportunity to try to divide us even more and create a problem where there is none.”
He then blamed “newspapers owned by politically motivated and powerful elitists” for attacking him and mischaracterizing his comments.
Friday’s letter, released around 6 p.m., marked the first time the governor has confirmed discussing Obama during the fundraiser held at a private home in Belgrade.
The Portland Press Herald was first to report that LePage said Obama hates white people, attributing it to two anonymous Republican lawmakers who attended the fundraiser and heard LePage speak. A third attendee of the fundraiser confirmed the governor’s remarks to the BDN on Monday.
LePage denied the remarks on Tuesday when reporters caught him leaving his office for lunch, saying only that “I never said that, and you guys are all about gossip.”
Since then, however, other attendees have told the BDN the governor’s exact phrase was Obama “doesn’t like white people.” None of the attendees were willing to speak publicly, for fear of political reprisals.
The governor’s letter does not address his exact statement during the fundraiser.
“I grew up on the streets, where my first language was French, and I am not a polished speaker,” the governor said in his letter. “I am plain-spoken, and I do not always use the correct wording while making a point.”
The fundraiser was attended by Republican donors and lawmakers, about 70 in total, according to an attendee list obtained by the BDN.
Until Friday, the governor and his administration had refused to answer questions about the controversial comment.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.