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Former NH Speaker O'Brien blasts Sen. Ayotte after Wihby arrest

Staff Report
April 09. 2015 9:44AM
Part of a screen capture of Rep. Bill O'Brien's Facebook post criticizing Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH. 

Former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien attacked U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, in a Facebook post Tuesday following the arrest of her former state director on a charge of solicitation of prostitution.

David Wihby submitted his resignation following the arrest, and he has since resigned from his post on the Manchester school board.

[REPORT: Mayor performed CPR on Wihby in hours following prostitution arrest]

O'Brien, a Republican from Mont Vernon, references a letter that Ayotte and a handful of notable Republican leaders signed last year in urging GOP state representatives to support Gene Chandler for House Speaker for the 2015-16 term. O'Brien won the GOP caucus vote, but Shawn Jasper became speaker, amassing enough votes with the help of Democrats.

"Perhaps Dave Wihby can persuade Sen. Ayotte and her pals to circulate a letter on his behalf. Sort of an endorsement / character reference," O'Brien begins in his post. "Now, let's see, whose signatures should be on that letter? Certainly Ayotte. No sense in ducking her involvement now."

In a follow-up post on Facebook, O'Brien further criticized Ayotte and he writes about girls and women being caught up in "drug addiction, violence, and human trafficking in prostitution."

O'Brien, in a phone interview Thursday morning, said he understands those reacting with compassion to somebody going through a difficult time, but he said that Ayotte, as Wihby's "employer," showed a lack of understanding of human trafficking.

Some people commenting on his Facebook posts encouraged O'Brien, while some said he stepped over a line. A few urged him to remove the posts.

Asked about his posts in the interview, O'Brien said, "It's an accurate response. It's a fair response."

O'Brien additionally questioned Ayotte's understanding of the issue. "The original war on women is prostitution," O'Brien said.

In his second post, O'Brien wrote more on human trafficking.

O'Brien wrote, in part:

"Sen. Ayotte’s poor selection and supervision of staff resulted in a split in the party. She has also now made a poor choice in ignoring the human trafficking that her “friend” was so willing to finance. She didn’t even have the instincts to condemn it. She can’t just sponsor some legislation, such as the Federal Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, and think that the issue ends there. It doesn’t end and it doesn’t help that Sen. Ayotte would support those who would perpetuate it."

Ayotte's office did not have an immediate reaction, but a comment is expected later Thursday.

Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, had strong words for O'Brien.

Horn's statement Thursday:

"The charges made against Mr. Wihby are serious, and he will pay a price if he is ultimately convicted. But given the circumstances that followed his arrest, now is clearly a time to offer our thoughts and prayers for the Wihby family and for David's recovery.

"Representative O'Brien's comments are extremely disappointing and beneath the dignity of his public office. It is wrong to exploit a serious issue in a petty attempt to settle an old political score.

"True conservatism includes expressing some compassion for those who suffer. I would hope that Representative O'Brien could join us in offering sympathy for somebody in their time of need."

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