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March 18. 2012 10:39PM

Buckley: I called O'Brien a buffoon, not a baboon

Facing accusations of name-calling by Republicans, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said Sunday that he never called House Speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, a “baboon” at a dinner rally Friday night in Manchester.

“I called him a buffoon,” said Buckley. “I wouldn't want to insult baboons.”

As reported in the Saturday edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader, Buckley, while speaking before about 400 Democrats at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner at the Executive Court in Manchester, said it was a priority for state Democrats to win enough seats in the state House of Representatives in November to take the leadership position away from Speaker O'Brien. He was quoted as saying: “There is nothing more important in the state of New Hampshire than to get rid of that baboon. If tonight's turnout is any indication of what's going to happen in November, then we're going to have a very good year.”

On Saturday, New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Wayne MacDonald released a response to Buckley's speech at his party's annual dinner, demanding an apology.

MacDonald stated: “The only thing more inappropriate than Ray Buckley's comment about Speaker Bill O'Brien is the silent endorsement from New Hampshire Democrats like Maggie Hassan, Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster. Ray Buckley's name-calling is further proof that Democrats have become a minority party completely disconnected from voters. He and his party owe voters an apology.”

Buckley stated Sunday night that he didn't use the word “baboon” to describe O'Brien, claiming he instead used “buffoon.”

“I called him a buffoon,” said Buckley. “I believe the speaker has become a national embarrassment to our House.”

Merriam Webster defines a “buffoon” as “a ludicrous figure, a clown.”

The dinner Friday was attended by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, gubernatorial candidates Maggie Hassan and Jackie Cilley, and Democratic congressional hopeful Anne McLane Kuster. Kuster campaign finance director Emily Mellencamp Smith said Sunday night that while her campaign videotaped Kuster's speech at the event, they were not filming at the time the comment was made.

“My recollection of the statement is that he used the word buffoon,” said Smith.

Smith said she believed the comment was made by Buckley in an off-handed way, as a handoff between speeches by Shaheen and Kuster.

In his statement on Buckley's comment, MacDonald said using the term “baboon” goes against recent calls for civility in politics by Democratic leaders.

“Now that Republicans have started to clean up the fiscal mess Buckley's party created in Concord, Democrats showed again that they just can't campaign on the issues,” said MacDonald. “Remember, it was less than two months ago when Democrat Governor John Lynch called for ‘a civil tone in debates' and even said ‘our citizens expect us to behave with dignity and respect.' Buckley's stooped to a new low by placing his gutter politics ahead of the priorities of his own Governor Lynch.”

In his Jan. 31 State of the State address, Gov. Lynch called for a civil tone in debates and an end to attacks on public employees.

“There's a harshness in the air, in the tone and nature of our communication, and particularly within this building, that's not healthy for our people or our democracy. We can disagree, without demonizing one another,” Lynch said. “Vigorous debate is important, but our citizens expect us behave with dignity and respect. They expect us to look for common ground and common purpose. I believe the interests that unite the people of our state are greater than those that divide us. If we work together, in the great tradition of New Hampshire, I believe we can find areas of common ground to build a stronger future for all of our citizens.”

While using the term “buffoon” could be considered derogatory, Buckley said that Republicans have also been less-than-cordial at times in their choice of words to describe Democrats.

“In 2010 John Sununu said he would sweep the ‘vermin,' the Democrats, out,” said Buckley. “In 2008 NH GOP Chair Fergus Cullen joked about assassinating the Clintons.”

Buckley was referring to a release he issued in 2008, claiming Cullen made a joke about the assassination attempt on the Clintons as they boarded Air Force One for the last time in 2008.


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