PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Rachel Talbot Ross, the State Director for the NAACP, says Governor Paul LePage's comments at a meeting in Sanford on Friday, made her "sad for all Mainers."
LePage has declined to participate in events marking Martin Luther King Day. When asked Friday morning if not participating in the MLK events was a pattern, LePage told the reporter to, "Tell 'em to kiss my butt."
Talbot Ross said she felt, "How horrific of a man who is supposed to lead the state of Maine to make such divisive comments. I feel sad for all Mainers because I know this is not just about the NAACP."
National NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous responded LePage's comments by saying, "Governor LePage's decision to inflame racial tension on the eve of the King holiday denigrates his office," stated Jealous. "His words are a reminder of the worst aspects of Maine's history and out of touch with our nation's deep yearning for increased civility and racial healing."
Jealous' father is from Maine and his family has been in New England since 1636.
The organization has asked LePage to attend not only the MLK events, but also numerous forums and functions both as a candidate and as a governor, and he has declined each time.
She says NAACP members just want some reassurance that he does plan to meet with them -- and they're concerned that he has declined so many invitations.
Talbot Ross said, "It cannot be just about an invitation to a dinner. What the governor did today was expose a lot of the feeling and the animosity he has for people who engage in human civil rights advocacy."
"The NAACP understands that there are a lot of demands on [Gov. LePage's] time and we respect the fact that he is very busy and people want to get out and meet him and have him at their events. We are no different than that," she added. "What this is about is [making sure] that we're not misinterpreting any messages.... We hope this is not a message."
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