Republican representative sorry for 'disrespectful' email
CONCORD - A second-term state representative has apologized for referring to women as "vaginas" earlier this month in an email to fellow House members.
Rep. Peter Hansen, an Amherst Republican, used the term in an April 1 email discussion with other House members about the so-called "stand-your-ground" law, which would be repealed under a bill passed by the House and now before the state Senate.
Hansen's comment, which has been widely reported nationally, was made in reference to a speech given on the bill on the House floor last month by another lawmaker.
The bill now under consideration by the Senate would repeal the current state law that allows the use of deadly force by someone who "reasonably believes" deadly force is about to be used against him.
Hansen's email focused on his belief that women and children are less able to retreat from threatening situations than himself, which, he argued, is a reason to retain the stand-your-ground law. But the lawmaker used the term "vaginas" referring to women, instead of using the word "women."
Hansen emailed the media on Wednesday saying, "I deeply regret the comment included as part of a recent email. It was inappropriate, disrespectful, even hurtful. I offer my sincerest apologies to everyone offended by the inappropriate comments and content of that correspondence."
Gov. Maggie Hassan said at a press availability Wednesday, "First and foremost, especially in a democracy with a citizen Legislature that is as strong and vibrant as ours is, it's really important for people to treat each other with respect and as equals.
"I'm disappointed in the language that Rep. Hansen used, I think it offends and takes us away from the important task of making sure that we debate with civility," Hassan said.
New Hampshire's political leadership has not only a woman as governor, but women also serve in both U.S. Senate seats and both U.S. House seats. The Speaker of the House is also a woman, as is the chair of the state Republican Party.
Tuesday night, House Republican Leader Gene Chandler called Hansen's comments "repugnant and unbecoming of an elected official. They have no place in public discourse.
"Rep. Hansen's comments in no way reflect the opinions of House Republicans or the Republican Party," Chandler wrote in a statement.
He called on Hansen to apologize and said, "We need to focus on finding real solutions to solve New Hampshire's problems rather than engaging in unproductive and unprofessional discussions via email."
After Hansen apologized, Chandler wrote: "I commend Rep. Hansen for doing the right thing and issuing a heartfelt apology for the comments contained in his email. House members are often very passionate about the issues we deal with, and in the heat of the moment, may misspeak or say things they later regret. House members need to hold themselves to a higher standard and refrain from engaging in this type of discourse via email or otherwise. Rep. Hansen has indicated he is sorry and meant no malice towards anyone or group, and I take him at his word. I look forward to getting back to the business of the people of our state without these types of distractions."
State Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said, "How long will it take before Kelly Ayotte, Jeb Bradley and other Republican leaders finally denounce these shockingly inappropriate comments? Their silence is deafening as New Hampshire Republicans continue to be a shameful national embarrassment."
Hansen is married and has two children, according to his brief biography on the nonpartisan "Live Free or "Die Alliance" web site. He writes that he has a bachelor's and master's degree from Rivier College.
Hansen made headlines in January 2011 when he held an intruder at gunpoint in his home. The intruder, Eldon Spikes, had testifed in 2010 that he had been with the perpetrators of the 2009 murder of Kimberly Cates in Mont Vernon when they bragged about the killing.