Bedford State Senator and Republican Congressional Candidate Andy Sanborn has declined to clarify what, exactly, he said to a Senate intern in 2013 that later prompted New Hampshire Senate leaders to bring in an outside law firm to review the situation.
Now, the comment has been revealed for the first time in newly released testimony from the senate’s legal counsel, who says he overheard the statement firsthand.
According to Senate legal counsel Richard Lehmann, Sanborn made a reference to the intern performing a sexual act during a conversation between Sanborn, the intern and Sanborn's wife.
Lehmann says the conversation took place in Sanborn's office, and he overheard all of it from his office across the hall, about “10 or 12 feet away.”
An excerpt of Lehmann's testimony, with his recollection of that conversation, can be read below:
Lehmann offered this account to investigators with the attorney general's office earlier this year as they were looking into whether that same intern was paid off or offered a legislative job to stay quiet about the incident.
In the end, state investigators said they did not find any evidence that such a payoff took place — though their final report on the matter did confirm that Sanborn did make an "inappropriate comment" to the intern in February 2013.
After hearing Sanborn’s comment to the intern, Lehmann told investigators that he “tapped out a memorandum on [his] laptop, writing down what [he] heard” and notified then-Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders.
After reporting the situation to Flanders, Lehmann said he followed up with the intern and another staffer who was also in the room at the time Sanborn made the comment to ask how they felt about the situation and to “make them aware that if they were uncomfortable working with Senator Sanborn in any way, that we would find a work assignment, or do whatever it took to make them feel that their workplace was not uncomfortable for them.”
“Everybody – both of them took it, as I took it when I heard it, as a – sort of a foolish comment, a poor attempt at a joke that, you know, probably was not the kind of joke that should be made in that environment, but that’s it,” Lehmann recalled, according to the attorney general’s transcripts.
Lehmann said he did not address the situation directly with Sanborn, but he did participate in a conversation with both Flanders and Sanborn “in which we said, generally, without specifically identifying anybody – I mean, without identifying the people involved, that he needed to watch his behavior.”
While Lehmann couldn’t recall Sanborn’s exact response at the time, he did recall this much: “I don’t think he was happy about being confronted by two staff members, and I think that he believed we were blowing things out of proportion and that it was just a joke, and that it didn’t warrant any response.”
Sanborn, for his part, has in recent months dismissed the matter as “total BS,” “a witch hunt, plain and simple,” “fake news” and the product of “several attempts by my political enemies to discredit me.”
In a statement provided to NHPR on Monday afternoon, Sanborn said the newest transcript “completely vindicates” him — suggesting once again that his comments were merely “a crass joke,” and “no one was offended, felt uncomfortable, or put off.”
"At a time when women and some men feel more vulnerable than ever in the workplace, trying to parlay a joke amongst friends, all of which who took it as such, disrespects and minimizes the real and pervasive challenges faced by people today,” Sanborn said.
"I have no doubt my political enemies will try and use this against me, and it demonstrates how desperate they are, and willing to lie and fabricate non events to tear me down. Their shameful and despicable actions show their deep lack of character and just how far they will go to try and destroy anyone who challenges their power.”