Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, is primarily known for being a racist and, as Politico phrased it, “America’s craziest governor.” So, when a young member of his constituency wrote to him expressing her concern that ending net neutrality threatens her education, he responded in just the way you’d expect a raging asshole to respond.
Hope Osgood is a sophomore at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Maine. In the days leading up to the FCC’s vote that repealed net neutrality protections, she found an application online that made it easy to send LePage a letter expressing her legitimate concerns that without net neutrality corporations could control what content is viewable online. According to the Portland Press Herald, she wrote:
The internet is the easiest way to access anything. News, information, etc. Companies being able to put restrictions on internet usage isn’t ideal! People will be left in the dark about some things. All my school work is internet-based, but what happens if I can’t reach what I need to? What about my lessons in school?
A month later, after the FCC voted to do exactly what Ms. Osgood feared, LePage got around to responding to the letter. Just below Osgood’s typed message, LePage wrote, “Hope. Pick up a book and read! Governor.” (Image here.)
“I’m only 16 years old, I’ve only talked to so many people,” she told the Press Herald. “I just thought it was rude. I didn’t know how to react to that. I’m a kid. I can’t really do that much.”
Osgood is correct, LePage’s response was rude and entirely unnecessary. He didn’t have to respond at all, but he decided to stick it to a little girl with a smartass comment rubbing in the fact that what she feared had come true. Putting aside what a stupid notion it is that we should just read books and let corporations do whatever they want with the internet, it’s worth keeping in mind what information can be readily seen online that might not be in book form yet.
If Ms. Osgood wanted to know more about her governor, a quick Google search would show her that he’s a man who regularly stokes racial fears in order to manipulate the public. Most famously, in 2016, he warned that “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” are coming to Maine from out of state to sell drugs and “half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.” Following those comments, Democratic State Rep. Drew Gattine reportedly referenced LePage’s comments and characterized them as “racially charged.” When a reporter suggested to LePage that Gattine had called him a racist, the governor didn’t use the handy internet to look up the incident in question. Instead, he left Gattine a profane voicemail in which he called him a “socialist cocksucker,” and later told reporters that he longed for the days when he could shoot his political opponents in the head.
Further research online would show that he’s famous for his blatant nepotism, and engaging in what has been characterized in court as attempted blackmail of a charter school. Osgood would also find that in the wake of the scandal over LePage’s racist remarks, he indicated that he was open to taking up the calls for his resignation that came from state legislators and voters. But he never followed through, he just stayed in office, giving a big middle finger to the will of his constituents. In 2017, he admitted that he simply lies to the press, and in turn, his voters, because it amuses him.
Yes, it’s easy to see why LePage might prefer books to some of the up-to-date information that can be found online. The internet can also provide great time-saving tools, like the one that helped Osgood write a quick letter to her governor. And when Osgood is old enough, the web makes it easy to get all the tools one needs to sign up to run for office. Maybe we’ll have fewer human stains like LePage taking up space in the seat of power.
A survey in late 2017 rated LePage as the seventh most unpopular governor in the country. Chris Christie came in at number one in that particular poll, and now that he’s out of office, it’s probably fair to say that LePage may have moved up a slot in the meantime. In two elections, he’s only won because of tickets crowded with the opposition that split the vote. When the book is finally written about this era of politicians that actively worked against, and even taunted the citizens they served, you can be sure that a special chapter will be reserved for LePage.
We reached out to Governor LePage’s office for comment, and we’ll update if we hear back.