AUGUSTA — The only African-American lawmaker serving in the Maine Legislature said Tuesday he met with Republican Gov. Paul LePage, in part, to discuss a controversial comment LePage made last week.

Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, said he met with LePage on a number of topics but the two did discuss LePage’s comments in Bridgton last week in which LePage said drug traffickers from out of state were coming to Maine and “… before they leave they impregnate a young white girl.”

The comment caused a firestorm of media attention for LePage who later said he “slipped up” and that instead of “white girl” he meant to say Maine women.

“We talked about the impact of everything we say as elected officials,” Hickman said. “That’s all. It was a private conversation. It was one on one; it was face to face.”

Hickman said that politically, he and LePage don’t agree on much, but he’s enjoyed a respectful working relationship with LePage and the governor does usually take the time to meet with Hickman when he requests a meeting.

LePage on Tuesday morning mentioned the conversation with Hickman on a talk radio show hosted by WVOM. He said his comments from last week were not racially motivated as his critics have claimed.

“I was sitting with Rep. Hickman yesterday,” LePage said. “We were talking about two issues: April 1922, the largest Ku Klux Klan rally in the history of our country was against French Canadians coming to Maine trying to work in the factories. Look, should it have been another word? Probably, I should have said, ‘Maine women’ but even then Maine is one of the whitest states in America, whether we are No. 1 or No. 2. I’m not going to make excuses or apologize for something that wasn’t there.”

Lepage said what was in his heart was a desire to stop an ongoing addiction drug crisis in Maine as well as end domestic violence in the state.

Hickman on Tuesday said he wasn’t passing judgment on what was in LePage’s heart. “But given our nation’s history, I was upset,” Hickman said.

Hickman said the conversation between him and LePage was simply “two men talking.”

Hickman also said President Lyndon Johnson was recorded saying things in private that would be considered racist and would likely be politically incendiary today. But Johnson was always civil in his public discourse and was the president who did more than any other to see the Civil Rights Act passed into law and worked to end race-based discrimination in America.

He added, “Face-to-face conversations are sacred in some sense. What people say to each other in good faith is what they say to each other in good faith. And I’m not here to report on anything other than that it was a constructive, respectful conversation.”

Hickman said perhaps a broader conversation for Maine people would be the lack of diversity within state government, the Legislature and even the State House press corps, which is dominated by men.

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