AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage is standing by comments he made about Rep. John Lewis.
The NAACP is demanding an apology from LePage over his comments about the civil rights leader and longtime congressman, but the governor is standing by his remarks.
“I will tell you,” LePage said to CBS 13 on Wednesday, “there are no apologies.”
This week, LePage weighed in on the feud between President-Elect Donald Trump and Lewis.
On WVOM radio, the governor said Lewis has no business criticizing Trump, saying Lewis needs a history lesson.
The governor also said African-Americans owe white Republicans a debt of gratitude.
“It was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves,” LePage said. “It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant who fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.”
Hayes’ election actually kicked off Jim Crow laws. The governor’s interpretation ignores that and leaves out nearly 100 years of history.
Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation in the South, were in place from the late 1870s to the 1960s. Grant’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was largely ignored in the former Confederacy.
Then, Hayes won office under the Compromise of 1877, an informal deal after a contested election that gave him the White House in exchange for promising to pull Northern troops out of the South. It allowed Jim Crow laws to take root. That’s why Lewis and others marched in Alabama in 1965, where he was beaten by state troopers.
The Maine NAACP said it is demanding an apology from the governor for his intentional disrespect and blatant ignorance.
In a statement, the NAACP said in part, “Congressman Lewis does not need to ‘learn his history,’ he already made history by marching at Selma, working alongside Dr. [Martin Luther King Jr.] and serving in Congress for three decades.”
Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson, who also has been a frequent target of LePage, said the governor’s gone too far criticizing a civil rights icon.
“To question what his motives are and things like that, I mean the governor is just completely out of line,” Jackson said. “And he continues to do this, and I think he should apologize.”
The governor and first lady plan to leave Thursday for Washington, D.C., for Friday’s inauguration of Trump as president.