State Rep Robert Fisher of Laconia, who has rejected called for his resignation – including from the governor - for his role in setting up an misogynistic online forum, went before a House committee Tuesday. Fisher argued that lawmakers are wasting their time focusing on him. But members of the Legislature and the public told lawmakers leaving Fisher alone would send a wrong message.
For the past few weeks, Fisher has argued his online statements revealed by the Daily Beast - including comments deriding women’s intelligence, detailing ways for men to dodge rape accusations and questioning if rape itself was wholly bad – have been misreported and misconstrued.
He’s never “hated women,” Fisher assured the committee, and the reporting that brought his comments to light, it was shoddy, he said.
"A lot of convenient reporting, to play into partisan politics, and I’m disappointed that’s where it’s gone," he said. "But I’m more than happy to get back to work and concentrate on what matters, not wasting everyone’s time on this.”
Citing a work obligation, Fisher himself left about halfway through the two-hour hearing. But he was in the room to witness plenty of testimony, all of it negative, some of it sweeping.
Stratham Rep. Debra Altschiller cast Fisher as a particularly glaring example of misogyny she says is too common in Concord.
“And I am here today to not only assert that Representative Fisher not only contributes to that rape culture that we experience here in the House. But he is a purveyor of rape culture in our state and in our nation. It is our responsibility to work with vigilance in this body to eradicate this vile scourge from our ranks and from or state.”
Most of the lawmakers and citizens who testified were women. But Brian Harlow of Concord told the committee what struck him about Fisher was a coldness.
“I didn’t see or hear any contrition," he said. "I saw now empathy. I saw no compassion.”
The resolution of this issue for Fisher may hinge on how compassionate his colleagues feel. The charge of the committee is to choose between four options – no action, reprimand, censure, and expulsion – and to make a recommendation to the full House. As he left the hearing, Fisher told reporters he was confident:
“I believe that this hearing has been fair, and I believe the truth will be decided, found.”
The committee has until next week to decide the truth. The full House will vote on any recommendation June 1.