Maine's shoot-from-the-lip Gov. Paul LePage had to apologize again Friday—this time for leaving a vile voicemail during which he challenged a lawmaker to "prove that I'm a racist."
"I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-b—, socialist (expletive)," he told Rep. Drew Gattine in a voicemail obtained by NBC News and acknowledged by his office. "You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you."
Later, in an interview with the Portland Press Herald and a local TV station, LePage called Gattine a "snot-nosed runt" and said he wished it was 1825 so they could duel.
"I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you," he said. "I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes."
But on Friday, LePage admitted he crossed the line when he called Gattine "the worst word I could think of."
"I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state," LePage said in a statement. "Legislators like Gattine would rather be politically correct and protect ruthless drug dealers than work with me to stop this crisis that is killing five Mainers a week.”
LePage also insisted he'd challenged Gattine to a metaphorical duel—not an actual one. In the same breath, he accused the Democrat of "protecting" drug dealers.
"Obviously, it is illegal today; it was simply a metaphor and I meant no physical harm to Gattine," the governor said. "But I am calling him out to stop giving inflammatory sound bites and get to work to end this crisis that is killing Mainers, destroying families and creating drug-addicted babies, all so the drug dealers Gattine is protecting can make a profit.”
There was no immediate response from Gattine. But on Thursday, just hours after receiving the phone message from LePage, he told the Portland Press Herald he never called the governor a racist.
“Obviously that message is upsetting, inappropriate and uncalled for,” Gattine told the paper. “It’s hard to believe it’s from the governor of the state of Maine, but again, we need to stay focused on the drug problem we are facing here in Maine and cannot allow this story to be about the governor’s inappropriate and vulgar behaviors.”
LePage gave Gattine an earful after a television reporter earlier asked him what he would say to people who call him a racist. The question was posed after LePage talked after a town hall meeting Wednesday in North Berwick, Maine.
When LePage asked who called him a racist, the reporter said he had spoken with Gattine but did not explicitly say the lawmaker had called the governor a racist, WCBH6, the NBC affiliate in Portland, reported.
“When someone calls me a racist, I take it very seriously," LePage said in his statement. "I didn’t know Drew Gattine from a hole in the wall until yesterday. It made me enormously angry when a TV reporter asked me for my reaction about Gattine calling me a racist. It is the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person."
LePage, however, has a well-documented history of making remarks that have been criticized as racist, insensitive and downright crude. Back in January he apologized for saying that out-of-state drug dealers come to Maine to peddle heroin and impregnate "white girls."