Despite Uproar Over Lawmaker's Comments, House Leaders Lack Leverage to Oust Him

Apr 26, 2017

The revelation that a Lakes Region state representative may have founded "The Red Pill,” a misogynistic online forum with more than 200,000 followers, has drawn global attention. But controversial, even hateful, utterances by state lawmakers are not new in New Hampshire’s citizen legislature. And precedent suggests that if Rep. Robert Fisher is to leave his House seat, it will be by his own will, or that of voters. 

  As reported by The Daily Beast, Fisher’s comments are deeply disturbing: He repeatedly degrades women’s intelligence and downplays the effects of rape. And the calls for Fisher to step down from are piling up. Governor Sununu called Fisher’s comments “horrendous and repulsive” and said "his resignation is certainly in order." New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jeanie Forrester also wants Fisher gone. But according to a statement he issued Tuesday, Fisher "isn’t disappearing” and will “continue to stand strong for men’s rights and the rights for all.” 

In the meantime, life at the New Hampshire State House, where Fisher is serving his second term, goes on.

School children get their tours. And legislative leaders sit in their offices on the third floor. To a one, they will tell you they are aghast at Fisher’s comments.

"I am disgusted by what I read," said House Speaker Shawn Jasper.

And here is House Democratic leader Steve Shurtleff: "You read the comments and they are just so deplorable."

The top Republican and Democrat in the House also agree that as bad as Fisher’s comments are, as words and not deeds, they don’t technically run afoul of House standards. Speaker Jasper says that doesn’t mean the House couldn’t act to remove Fisher, but does make it improbable.

"If the legislature wanted to, they could remove him, but I don’t see that that would be something that the legislature would do in a case like this," Jasper said. "Usually in the few times it’s been done, it's been done for criminal acts."

The last time a state rep was expelled was 1913. That was over taking bribes. Plenty of New Hampshire lawmakers have faced possible removal in the years since, and many tend to step down on their own accord. 

Kyle Tasker, who resigned last year, faced felony charges. Tom Alciere, who was pressured to quit after internet postings surfaced in which he repeatedly espoused killing police officers, resigned in 2001.

Much has changed since then. The rise of electronic media can make local controversies, even ones involving back-bench state reps, global news. And while the statements that earned Fisher all this attention are by any measure offensive, the leverage House leaders have to punish him is pretty minimal.  House Speaker Jasper says he and Fisher have no relationship -- he's never even spoken to Fisher before.

 Which means if Fisher holds his ground, it will be up to the citizens of his district to make change at the citizens' legislature.