Maine Gov. Paul LePage has compared the monuments of Confederate war figures being removed from public spaces across the country to those commemorating the deaths of 2,753 people during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City.
LePage made the explosive comment Thursday as he condemned the Confederate purge in the wake of last Saturday's deadly rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"They're trying to erase history. How can future generations learn if we're going to erase history? That's disgusting," LePage, a Republican and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, told Ken Altshuler and Matt Gagnon of WGAN radio.
"Whether we like it or not, this is what our history is. To me, it is just like going to New York City right now and taking down the moment of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that."
The National September 11 Memorial, which commemorates the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is located at the World Trade Center site, and is one of the city's most revered locations.
LePage also compared the removal of Confederate moments to statues that were yanked down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I remember seeing these gruesome sights when Iraq fell apart and they were taking down all the statues, and the Taliban did the same thing in Afghanistan. Quite frankly, I think we're better than that," LePage said.
LePage agrees with Trump on the Confederate monument flap.
In an extraordinary set of tweets Thursday morning, Trump said he was sorry that Confederate monuments were being removed from public spaces, calling the slavery-linked artifacts "beautiful statues" and saying the moves were "foolish."
In his interview with WGAN, LePage said, like Trump, he also "condemns" both white supremacists and counter-protesters who clashed at the rally held to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
"I condemn both sides, I think they're disgusting, both sides. They went there with the intent of inciting violence … There's no place for either of those groups in this country," LePage said.
He said he had a clear-cut vision of how he would handle a similar protest in Maine.
"I would tell you right away how I would react. ‘All guns ahead, boys. Take them out.' I have no use for any of it," LePage told WGAN.
"If they're going to go into violence, my first advice to the Maine people is don't gather in these large crowds. It's not safe.
"When police officers are called and the National Guard are called, they're called for a reason and they want to keep peace so stay away. If you choose to go in and battle, I will not be timid."
LePage is no stranger to controversy. In 2013, he raised eyebrows when he suggested Americans get their guns out if their constitutional right to freedom of speech is ever stifled.
He also once told the Portland branch of the NAACP to "kiss my butt," called protesters "idiots," and referred to government managers as "corrupt."
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