Seemingly out of the blue, President Donald Trump called a retired Maine veteran an “animal” on Twitter the other day.

It goes back almost three years to a Democratic Party-sponsored public forum where Richard Fochtmann of Leeds said something he quickly came to regret.

Talking about the need to diversify the party and attract more young people to Maine, Fochtmann said he’d seen a report indicating that “a lot of men, white men, were committing suicide and I almost thought ‘yeah, great,’” he told the gathering.

Forty-five minutes later in the forum, Fochtmann, an unsuccessful state Senate candidate and chairman of his town’s Democratic committee, realized he’d gone too far and that his comment was “in very poor taste.” He apologized.

That would have been the end of it except that a GOP activist was “sitting there and recording everything,” Fochtmann recalled Monday.

For a few days in the spring of 2017, a 39-second clip of Fochtmann’s talk went viral on social media via Maine First Media, pushed by Republicans claiming he represented his party.


State Democrats, feeling the heat, asked him to step down as the local chairman. He agreed, though he wishes he had refused.

Fochtmann, 76, said he got bombarded with phone calls at the time, some rabid but many thoughtful enough to discuss the issue and the context of the video they’d seen online.

He said he told them he was sorry, but explained that he was upset by a spate of suicides among veterans “who don’t have any help because of the Republicans” sending them to war and failing to provide them with the support they need.

Richard Fochtmann during his 2016 state Senate race. File

The whole controversy died down long ago.

Then Trump somehow stumbled across the video clip resurrected by a right-wing account claiming to be run by a woman named Rena, who had earlier vowed Democats “will feel the almighty wrath of God!” for impeaching the president.

Trump retweeted it Friday evening and asked his more than 68 million followers, “What kind of animal is this?”


Fochtmann said he was “caught totally unaware” by the slur, surprised that it had come up again after so much time had passed.

But, Fochtmann said, given Trump’s proclivity for smearing opponents online, he isn’t really shocked the president singled him out. But he wasn’t happy about it.

“He is just a piece of scum on the face of the world,” Fochtmann said,

Fochtmann said the news media ought to ignore what Trump says, insisting that reporters should shun the president’s constant stream of “lies and [bull].”

The president’s tweet about him, he said, isn’t worth a story.

“Stand up for democracy,” he told a reporter. “The man is a bully and he is narcissist. He fashions himself a dictator.”


Fochtmann said he considers himself an old-school patriot, proud of his military service and determined to stand up for the Constitution that he thinks “is being trashed” by the president and his supporters.

The news media, Fochtmann said, “is supposed to be coming to our defense” in times like this, not serving as scribes for a man who should be in prison.

Republicans, though, have already seized on Trump’s tweet to further their cause in Maine.

Adrienne Bennett, a 2nd Congressional District candidate for the GOP, shared the president’s comment and added that “Maine Democrats making light of anyone committing suicide is reprehensible and there’s no statute of limitations.”

“Democrats are destroying the very fabric of our society,” Bennett said on Twitter. “Their politics of weaponizing race, gender and division have gone too far.”

Fochtmann said it’s discouraging to see politics swirling ever downward, prodded by “this racist in the White House” who seems to be rooting for a civil war.

Until people wake up and see Trump for what he is, Fochtmann said, he’s worried for the future of the country.

“What is going to happen to all the young people?” he asked. “Our democracy is slowly, slowly eroding.”

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