PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s blunt-spoken governor does not mince words when opponents dare to cross him but he has saved some of his harshest criticism for newspapers, once telling schoolchildren he is not a fan of papers and another time saying that reading one is ‘‘like paying somebody to tell you lies.’’
Now the matter has gone to an extreme, with Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, and his administration cutting off comments to three newspapers, including one serving the state’s biggest city.
Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s communications director, said Wednesday it was her decision to give a blanket ‘‘no comment’’ to the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, where LePage once served as mayor. All three daily newspapers are owned by MaineToday Media Inc.
‘‘All we’re asking for is objectivity and a balanced approach to reporting,’’ she said. “We’re not finding that MaineToday Media has done that with the LePage administration.”
The announcement from the governor’s office was made after a Press Herald investigation of Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho, a former lobbyist portrayed as working behind the scenes to roll back environmental laws and rules opposed by her former clients in the chemical, drug, oil, and real estate industries.The three-part series was called ‘‘A lobbyist in the henhouse.’’
Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald, said the administration simply does not like tough reporting and said the newspaper will not be doing anything differently.
‘‘This is about probing journalism that examines how powerful forces affect the lives of ordinary citizens,’’ he said. “That makes the powerful uncomfortable. That’s what this is about.”
Bennett said the decision was not based on any single news report and that she did not think the new policy would prevent the papers’ reporters from doing their work or lead to people being uninformed. People have other options, including the Associated Press, radio, television, weekly newspapers, and bloggers, and the MaineToday newspapers can use the state’s Freedom of Access Act for data, she said.
‘‘We’re fortunate enough to have a variety of media outlets and news sources to choose from,’’ she said. The newspaper gag order would not apply during a natural disaster.