Bedford State Senator and Republican congressional candidate Andy Sanborn said allegations about his conduct at the Statehouse are being blown out of proportion by local media — despite a recent finding from the New Hampshire Attorney General's office that he did use "inappropriate language" toward a legislative intern in 2013.
In a conversation with The Exchange as part of NHPR’s ongoing “Race for the 1st” candidate forums, Sanborn repeatedly maintained that his statement at the time was simply a joke.
“I've never seen such a level of fake news, and it's so disappointing to me,” Sanborn said Monday morning. “Because we always see this fake news stuff in Washington and never thought it would come here, and in this case, it clearly has.”
“Look, five years ago I responded to a joke with a friend of mine, and we were just joking,” the state senator added. “And now, five years later, people are still trying to create something out of nothing.”
The issue most recently resurfaced because of a report issued by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office.
In that report, the attorney general’s office disclosed that it convened a grand jury to investigate whether a former legislative intern received a Statehouse job and a cash payment “in exchange for the intern’s silence regarding an inappropriate comment made to the intern by [Sanborn].”
While the investigation ultimately found no criminal wrongdoing and “no credible evidence” of an attempted cover-up by other legislative officials, the attorney general’s office did confirm that Sanborn made an “inappropriate comment” to a Senate intern in February 2013.
Neither the attorney general’s office nor Sanborn have elaborated on what that comment was. Asked about it on The Exchange, the state senator said it’s no different than the kind of language you’d typically hear at the Concord sports bar he owns, The Draft.
“Come to my sports bar,” Sanborn said. “You'll hear 15 or 20 people every Sunday say the same types of things.”
In addition to the recent investigation by the attorney general’s office, Sanborn’s comment also prompted an internal review back in 2013.
Senate officials have said no formal complaint was filed by anyone involved, but Senate President Chuck Morse asked for an outside law firm to review how the situation was handled when he assumed his leadership post in the fall of 2013.
The lawyers brought in as part of that process ultimately recommended a larger overhaul of the Statehouse’s anti-harassment policies. Both Morse and Sanborn have downplayed any direct connection between the decision to revise the legislative anti-harassment policies and Sanborn’s comment to the intern.
“Five years ago, when a friend and I shared a joke, it raised a question — no one was uncomfortable, no one found anything, I need to keep saying that — but it raised a question as to, what is the policy?" Sanborn said on Monday. "Five years ago, the state didn't really have a policy. So they said, well, maybe we should be like every other company and go and look and see what our policy should be.”
Sanborn declined to answer additional questions posed by an NHPR reporter after his appearance on The Exchange, remaining silent when asked to clarify some of his statements on his way out of the office.