AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage apologized Wednesday to the president and the former president of the University of Maine at Farmington for abruptly leaving a dedication ceremony and calling two students “idiots.”

Reacting to signs held by student protesters Nick Bray and Ally Hammond, LePage cut short his speech during a ceremony to rename a building for former UMF President Theodora Kalikow and walked off.

“First and foremost, I apologize to President (Kathryn) Foster and especially to Theodora Kalikow for the sequence of events on Tuesday,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “I was humbled to be invited to speak at a ceremony to honor Theodora Kalikow and recognize the great legacy she has left the University of Maine at Farmington, as well as its faculty, staff and students.”

LePage also admonished the protesters and said that while he is accustomed to attacks and ridicule, most others are not.

“Neither Theo, nor the people who were gathered to honor her, deserved for this heartfelt occasion to be disrespected by smug and self-serving protesters,” LePage said.

He added, “If they wish to protest me, that’s fine. We all have the right to express our freedom of speech. But this event was not about me. I was sickened by the lack of respect displayed by two protesters holding up demeaning signs — including one with Theo’s name on it — during an event that was supposed to celebrate and honor a remarkable woman who has contributed so many years to improving education in Maine.”

The sign held by Bray criticized LePage for his record on the environment while praising Kalikow.

It read, “Report Card, Subject: Environmental Issues, Theo Kalikow A+, Paul LePage F.”

In his statement, LePage also took issue with the state’s media.

“For more than five years, the media has flocked to events where I have been asked to speak, not to cover any good news about the events, but to disparage me over issues totally unrelated to the events,” LePage said. “Since I am such a distraction to the media, I will no longer attend some of these public events. I sincerely hope the media will continue to attend these events and report on the good people of Maine and the many positive things they are doing for our state.”

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