AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s Republican Gov. Paul LePage has issued a handwritten apology to the son of a Bangor Daily News cartoonist who LePage quipped he would like to shoot.
LePage made the comment to Nick Danby, son of BDN cartoonist George Danby, during a question-and-answer period at Dirigo Boys State in June.
Earlier this month Nick Danby, a junior at Bangor High School and a national debate champion, wrote back to LePage, accepting the governor’s apology, going on to say he was never offended by LePage’s comment in the first place.
“Thank you for the warm and thoughtful note — I appreciate your concern and frankness,” the 17-year-old Nick Danby wrote. “I wanted to respond by telling you that I was not offended — I thought they were quite humorous — nor was I the one who reported the incident — I think in many respects you were simply representing the feelings of many Mainers.”
During the event, an annual mock legislature for 200 high school juniors from across Maine, Nick Danby asked LePage what he thought about his cartoonist father and LePage responded, ” I’d like to shoot him.”
The statement prompted cries of outrage from LePage’s rivals and others but in his letter to LePage, Nick Danby writes most in the Boys State audience understood the governor was just kidding around.
George Danby has penned numerous cartoons featuring LePage in less-than flattering ways.
After LePage made the comment, Anthony Ronzio, the BDN’s director of news and audience, asked for an apology from LePage.
“Jokes about shooting someone aren’t funny,” Ronzio said in a message on his post. “It was shocking and tasteless.”
Ronzio later said the joke was especially insensitive because of the January massacre of 12 people, including five cartoonists and a police officer, by terrorists in France at the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
LePage’s note to Nick Danby was not immediately available but a request to the governor’s office for copies of any messages sent to LePage from Nick Danby resulted in the office providing a copy of the teenager’s letter.
“Yes, the governor sent Nick a personal note, apologizing for his comment and congratulating him for his selection to Boys State and for winning the national debate championship,” Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director wrote in a message to the Sun Journal. “As it was a personal note, we do not have a copy.”
In his letter to LePage, Nick Danby also thanked the governor for a speech he made during the event.
“Boys State was a great honor and a great experience,” Nick Danby wrote. “I know many of my peers enjoyed it and especially you. I have never seen a group of 200 boys more engaged than when you stepped onto that stage. For many you inspired them with your words and call for action and dreams.”
In his message, the younger Danby goes on to write that other teens involved in debate around the U.S. are aware of LePage, “and regardless of politics admire your work ethic and optimistic spirit toward your goals — and, I share the similar feeling.”
In his message Nick Danby is also critical of the media in Maine for “inaccurately” reporting the event and for portraying him as a “heartbroken child.”
Nick Danby, who is serving as a page for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, ended his note to LePage with words of encouragement and a quote from the 1939 movie, starring Jimmy Stewart, ” Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
Nick Danby wrote to LePage, “Jimmy Stewart tells us: ‘Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.’ Keep up your vigor and determination in Augusta — it will produce positive results.”