N.H. Rep. Robert Fisher lambasted by women at hearing about his role in misogynistic online forum

  • Rep. Robert Fisher, R-Laconia, talks with the press after his testimony at the Legislative Office Building on May 9, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rep. Robert Fisher, R-Laconia, testifies in front of the committee during a hearing over comments in a misogynistic online forum at the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Rep. Robert Fisher, R-Laconia, gets up after testifying at the Legislative Office Building on May 9, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rep. Robert Fisher, R-Laconia, is sworn in before his testimony at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rep. Robert Fisher testifies Tuesday, May 9, 2017, in front of the committee looking into the comments in a misogynistic online forum. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Protesters stand outside the room in the Legislative Office Building where Rep. Robert Fisher was set to testify Tuesday, May 9, 2017, about comments in a misogynistic online forum. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rep. Robert Fisher leaves after testifying Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at the hearing about comments in a misogynistic online forum. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/9/2017 12:30:19 PM

A dozen state representatives and voters urged lawmakers to take action against Rep. Robert Fisher on Tuesday, warning that the Republican’s involvement in a misogynistic online forum feeds into a derogatory culture toward women and may promote abuse.

“We have a representative in our House who invites and incites a community that degrades women, minimizes sexual assault and unabashedly contributes to the rape culture we should be changing,” Democratic Rep. Debra Altschiller said at a public hearing on Fisher’s behavior. “He must be held responsible.”

Fisher of Laconia has been under fire since the Daily Beast reported that he was behind a men’s rights forum known for its comments degrading women, questioning female intelligence and denying rape. Tuesday’s hearing marked the first time the public and Fisher could respond to allegations in an open forum.

In brief opening remarks, Fisher said he doesn’t “hate women” and denied a new report that he still oversees the Reddit forum – known as “The Red Pill.”

“Several years ago I made some injudicious statements regarding women and my frustrations with dating,” said Fisher, now in his second two-year term. “Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for and what I have done in my time here in Concord.”

The Legislative Administration Committee will recommend next week whether the House should reprimand Fisher, do nothing or expel him for his past comments.

Fisher, 31, has resisted calls to resign from top party leaders, including Gov. Chris Sununu. Critics said Fisher has made no attempts to apologize and anything less than expulsion will send a message that degrading women is acceptable.

“If this is allowed to go on, the message gets sent down the line that this is okay ... but it’s not,” said Brian Harlow of Concord. “I have three nieces that live in New Hampshire; all of them are below the age of kindergarten and they are just fertile ground for this misogyny.”

Dressed in a black pin-striped suit with a House of Representatives pin on his lapel, Fisher stood in the committee doorway listening as critics lambasted him. He left after roughly an hour of testimony, saying he was already late for work.

Since the news came out last month, Fisher has made statements saying some comments were taken out of context, while defending others. He wrote in the Laconia Daily Sun that he has “never taped a sexual encounter, though I have often considered that it may be the best, or only, form of protection for men to prevent false rape accusations.” Fisher said he and his girlfriend have faced harassment in wake of the Daily Beast article.

The two-hour hearing on Fisher’s behavior prompted few fireworks. But a handful of committee members audibly gasped when advocate Amanda Grady Sexton read an online comment Fisher allegedly made saying the only things one needs for rape are “roofies” and “duct tape.”

“These statements are not ‘injudicious’; they are a blatant promotion of sexual assault,” said Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Fisher denied he is behind that statement and others detailed in a new Daily Beast story Monday that links Fisher’s email address to the username “redpillschool,” which still moderates The Red Pill forum and regularly comments.

Fisher did admit to posting under the username “Pk_atheist,” who is credited with creating The Red Pill and last commented on the site in 2016, according to the Daily Beast. No committee member directly asked Fisher whether he founded the forum. It now has 200,000 subscribers, whose discussions include whether to strip women of voting rights and whether marital rape is possible, according to the Daily Beast.

The issue of timing is important because the committee is allowed only to consider comments Fisher made in 2017, during the current legislative session.

Majority Leader Dick Hinch, who leads the committee, said he has to take Fisher “at his word” that he is not currently moderating and posting on the forum.

“He said under oath that he wasn’t this individual,” said Hinch, a Merrimack Republican. “I have no other proof to demonstrate otherwise.”

Any action the committee recommends needs a majority vote from the full House to pass.

The only one of Fisher’s constituents to show up to the hearing said he has deceived voters.

“By not advising the voters of his participation in The Red Pill website, voters were not really able to make an informed decision,” said former representative Liz Merry of Laconia.

No one testified on Fisher’s behalf at the hearing, but “redpillschool” took to the forum Saturday to say Fisher’s situation proves a point.

“Knowing the truth and living by it was not enough to save that man from the wrath of vitriolic women,” the user wrote, according to the Daily Beast. “He stands as a testament to what happens to men who stand alone: They get torn down.”

Fisher isn’t the only representative whose behavior is now under a microscope. The Republican-led House voted last week to add Democratic Rep. Sherry Frost to the inquiry over tweets she sent that included profanity and characterized terrorists as “mostly white, Christian men.” A public hearing on Frost is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Fisher called the hearing fair, but a poor use of time.

“I am more than happy to get back to work and make sure we can concentrate on what matters, not wasting everybody’s time on this,” he said.

Fisher was first elected to the House in 2014 and represents Belmont and Laconia Wards 1 through 6. According to voting records, he has missed roughly half the House session days this year. Fisher doesn’t serve on any policy committees, at his own request.

(This story has been updated from a previous version. Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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