Rep. Fisher resigns in wake of 'Red Pill' scandalBy DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 17. 2017 12:01PM
- What do you think of the effort to unseat Robert Fisher - 1 of 400 unpaid legislators serving 2-year terms - for past association with a controversial online forum?
- Worth the effort
- Waste of time
- Total Votes: 1652
CONCORD — The embattled state lawmaker who was outed as the founder of a controversial online forum resigned Wednesday, House Speaker Shawn Jasper said.
Rep. Robert Fisher's resignation took effect shortly after a House committee voted to take no disciplinary action against the Laconia Republican for his involvement in the Reddit forum called "Red Pill," decried by critics for misogynistic content.
"It is unfortunate that the debate surrounding (Fisher's) actions while serving in the House has detracted from the good things that we have accomplished this session," said Jasper in the statement. "But I welcome his resignation for the good of the institution and I hope that we can now move forward with our important legislative agenda."
Fisher, 31, a two-term legislator, was under fire for creating the "Red Pill" forum, in which he was a moderator of a stream of woman-hating rhetoric, as first reported by The Daily Beast in late April. The New Hampshire House of Representatives moved two weeks ago to have its Legislative Administration Committee review the allegations. The House amended the motion to include a review of Rep. Sherry Frost, D-Dover, for use of profanity in some of her past social media posts.
Crimes of ‘Shame!'
On Wednesday, the House committee voted 8-6, along party lines, to recommend the full House not take any discipline against either Fisher or Frost. As the vote was recorded, women in the audience shouted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"
Speaker Pro Tem Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, made the motion while Democrats on the committee tried unsuccessfully to separate the two cases. Democrats have argued it is "false equivalency" to treat Fisher's alleged anti-woman and "pro-rape" comments on the same level as Frost's language on Twitter.
Packard's motion reads, "absent in our House rules that specifically provides for a code of conduct for the membership that holds them to a higher standard than others in society, I do not believe the committee can recommend discipline of the two members, based solely on the constitutionally protected right of free speech. Therefore I move that the committee recommend no action be taken with respect to Representatives Fisher and Frost."
Emily Morgan of Milford, a member of Action Together NH, was among the audience members shouting "Shame!" when the committee adopted the motion. Before the committee convened, her group joined the women's rights group Ultraviolet and the liberal Granite State Progress at a news conference accompanied by women dressed in costume from "The Handmaid's Tale," the TV show based on Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel. They urged lawmakers to expel Fisher.
Morgan, in a later statement, said she was pleased to learn Fisher had resigned, but added, "We are deeply disturbed by the extreme partisanship and blatant misogyny that this process exposed in the House."
House Majority Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, the chairman of the committee, said Fisher's comments were reprehensible. The committee, however, was tasked with looking at comments or actions either legislator made in this legislative session, he said.
Rep. Timothy Smith, D-Manchester, claimed that Fisher may have lied to the committee when he testified, under oath, a week ago. He pointed to a follow-up story by The Daily Beast that alleged Fisher was still involved with the "Red Pill" forum. Rereading statements attributed to Fisher, Smith said he needs to be held accountable.
"Having read it," he said, "I have to say I'm thoroughly disgusted."
House Minority Leader Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, also questioned at one point during the deliberation whether Fisher perjured himself. Shurtleff wondered if the Attorney General's Office should review the matter.
'No good way'
The committee was charged with reviewing the merits of the allegations against each state representative and reporting its recommendation for one of the following actions: expulsion, censure, reprimand, or no action.
The House is in session today, at which time a motion could come up in connection with a proposed reprimand, or other action, but Hinch said the House Speaker would likely order such a motion premature because the committee report is due to the House on June 1. Hinch ruled that the committee's motion would lump Fisher and Frost together, and he concluded the committee would produce one report to the House, without a minority report from the six Democrats on the committee.
"At the end of the day there was no good way to come out of this," Hinch said afterward. "When you have a hearing and a process such as we just went through, which by the way is unprecedented, there will be those who will be absolutely enraged with the outcome and those who will be alright with the outcome."
House Speaker Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, previously condemned Fisher's statements. Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, and state GOP Chairwoman Jeanie Forrester both called for Fisher to resign.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley still pointed fingers at GOP leaders in the House.
"His resignation is an admission of guilt that House Republicans unfortunately refused to acknowledge in today's Legislative Administration Committee decision to take no action," Buckley said. "Hopefully his resignation will make it clear to those defending his actions that misogyny and degradation of women is not acceptable in New Hampshire."