The chairman of the Maine Republican Party is backtracking after comments he made alleging voter fraud by mysterious black voters in the state during the presidential election.
Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster released an apology late Thursday, reports the Portland Press Herald.
“It was my intention to talk not about race, but about perceived voting irregularities,” Webster said in a written statement. “However, my comments were made without proof of wrongdoing and they had the unintended consequence of casting aspersions on an entire group of Americans. For that, I am truly sorry.”
Webster originally came under fire for comments he made to a local television station, while he was trying to explain what he saw as voting irregularities in the state.
“In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on election day. Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in town knows anyone who’s black,” he said in the interview. “How did it happen? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”
Here’s a clip from the original comments Webster is apologizing for:
The full, 20-minute interview is available from Portland television station WCSH 6.
After Webster’s comments, a spokesperson for the Maine secretary of state told Politico that she wasn’t aware of any complaints about the voter fraud Webster alleged.
Maine Democratic Party Chair Ben Grant also called the comments “racist” and said they were unfounded.
On Thursday, before his eventual apology, Webster dug himself deeper into a hole when he tried to clarify his earlier point. In an interview with Talking Points Memo reporter Ryan J. Reilly Webster said: “There’s nothing about me that would be discriminatory. I know black people. I play basketball every Sunday with a black guy. He’s a great friend of mine. Nobody would ever accuse me of suggesting anything.”