Gov. Paul LePage, left, testifies May 2, 2017, during a House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on Antiquities Act on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

If those seeking to remove the statues of Confederate heroes are successful, Gov. Paul LePage asked if they’ll next “take my books” and clear library shelves in a bid to strip away history.

During a wide-ranging radio interview with Bangor’s WVOM, the governor blasted the press as “pencil terrorists,” defended Robert E. Lee and bemoaned what’s happened to the military in Afghanistan.

“We have a bunch of Barney Fifes over there,” LePage said. “Everybody’s got their bullets in their lapel pocket” instead of trying to win the war against terrorists.

He said that if the country is going to fight the Taliban, it needs to seek victory. “If you’re not intending to win, then why go?” LePage asked.

The governor said that efforts to remove statues of men like Gen. Robert E. Lee, the chief military leader of the Confederacy in the Civil War, are misguided.

“Whether we like it or not, he was one of the greatest generals of his time,” LePage said, and was sought after by both North and South before Lee chose to align himself with his home state of Virginia, which had rebelled against the national government.

The self-described “history buff” also offered some sympathy for the Confederate cause.

“If you truly read and study the Civil War, it was turned into a battle for the slaves, but initially, I mean 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy,” LePage said.

“They were farmers and they were concerned about their land, their property,” LePage said.

“It was a property rights issue as it began,” he said, before crediting President Abraham Lincoln, “a very brilliant politician,” with making it “about slavery to a great degree.”

During the war, more than 72,ooo Mainers served in the Union force. At least 7,322 of them died in the war. There appears to be no support for the notion that thousands of Mainers fought for the Confederacy.

The governor renewed his longstanding attack on the press as well.

Newspaper reporters, he said, “are pencil terrorists themselves. They incite violence.”

“I’m sick of them,” LePage said. “And the sooner they get out of business, the sooner America can get back and become a great nation.”

LePage said journalism “used to be an honorable profession” but now “the print media is just horrible.

“For seven  years, I’ve been enduring these people,” the two-term governor said. “If I walked across the Kennebec River, the headline would read ‘Governor can’t swim.’ That’s how bad they are.”

This story will be updated.

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