LePage: Tearing down Confederate statues equivalent to taking down 9/11 memorials

Story highlights

  • LePage angrily called both sides of the protestors "disgusting"
  • The governor has previously been a target of criticism for making racially charged comments

Washington (CNN)Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday condemned "both sides" of protesters in Charlottesville and equated the act of taking down Confederate statues to dismantling tributes to 9/11 victims.

Speaking to Portland-based radio station WGAN, LePage angrily called both sides of the protesters "disgusting" -- grouping white supremacists and neo-Nazis with those who were there rallying against them.
"What they are standing for is equally as bad. They are trying to erase history. How will future generations learn if they are trying to erase history? That's disgusting," said LePage when asked about the anti-protesters, some of whom are part of Antifa -- individuals who are against what they say is growing fascism.
    White supremacists and neo-Nazis descended upon the Virginia city to oppose a local government decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Referring to efforts to remove other Confederate monuments across the country, LePage said, "To me it's just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that."
    When asked if he thought there was a false moral equivalency between KKK groups and the left-leaning protesters, LePage, a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, pushed back.
    "I condemn both sides. I think they are disgusting, both sides. They went there with the intention of inciting violence," LePage said of the two groups, echoing similar statements made by Trump at a news conference on Tuesday, when he said "both sides" were responsible for violence in Charlottesville.
    LePage continued that he believed Trump hadn't been harsh enough in his words.
    "I think he should have taken equal position against both and condemned both organizations. I don't think he came up strong enough on either one of them," he said.
    The governor angrily denied that his silence over the weekend on the events in Virginia indicated his support for the KKK or any white supremacy groups, saying he "despises them."
    "I have condemned this organization more so than anyone else in the state," he said. "I have been against the KKK since before you knew it existed."
    Instead, LePage said the reason he hadn't yet spoken about the protests was because he hadn't been aware of them.
    "Quite frankly, I didn't find out about it until Tuesday, because I don't watch TV and I don't read newspapers, because frankly, I believe newspapers are nothing more than tinsel to terrorists," LePage said.
    In the past, the Maine governor has been a target of withering criticism for making racially charged and eyebrow-raising comments.
    When asked at a town hall meeting in January what he was doing to combat the state's drug issues, LePage blamed drug pushers named "D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty," who come up into the state to sell heroin and "half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave."
    In August, LePage told a Maine townhall that "90-plus percent" of drug dealers arrested in Maine "are black and Hispanic people" from states like New York and Connecticut.