CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker who was criticized for creating a misogynistic online forum resigned Wednesday, citing concerns for the safety of his loved ones and himself.
The resignation of Rep. Robert Fisher of Laconia came shortly after his Republican colleagues voted to recommend the full House take no action against him and after Democrats said they would ask the attorney general to investigate him.
Fisher had come under fire after a recent article on The Daily Beast revealed him as the creator of a Reddit forum called "The Red Pill," which bills itself as a discussion of sexual strategies for men and includes a post in which users debate whether "every woman wants to be attractive enough to be raped."
He resigned less than an hour after a Republican-led committee voted 8-6 along party lines to recommend that the full House take no action against him.
"Unfortunately, the falsehoods, lies and comments of an overzealous blogger and some of my colleagues have created a situation where I must genuinely consider the safety and wellbeing of my girlfriend, my family, and myself," he said in an email. "I'm happy that the House committee stood firm for free speech today, it is with a heavy heart that I will be unable to complete my term."
The panel simultaneously recommended no action against Democratic Rep. Sherry Frost of Dover, who wrote on Twitter that men telling her to calm down makes her homicidal and that white Christian men represent a terrorist problem.
Rep. Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, made the motion that the committee recommend no action against either lawmaker, said he didn't believe the committee could recommend they be censured, reprimanded or expelled based on the constitutionally protected right of free speech.
"I will stand here and sit here forever and defend their freedom of speech no matter how reprehensible I find it, and I find it reprehensible in both cases," he said.
The panel's investigation was limited to reviewing the lawmakers' activity this year. Fisher said at a hearing last week that he no longer moderates the forum. Democrats on the House Legislative Administration Committee disputed that, and Democratic House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff said he would ask the attorney general's office to investigate whether Fisher committed perjury.Shurtleff said he no longer planned to do so given Fisher's resignation.
Democrats strongly objected to the committee chairman's insistence that they take just one vote and reach the same conclusion on both lawmakers. Frost said she was deeply disappointed the committee was forced to hold her and Fisher to the same standard given the "enormous difference" between their online activity.
"Holding me hostage provided some in the GOP with a way to help give cover both to Mr. Fisher and to the Republican members of the House who wanted to talk about anything except his vicious, vile misogyny and the culture it fosters," she said.
Fisher, 31, said that in his early 20s he went through a "nightmare situation" where "false rape accusations became a very real concern." He told the committee he doesn't hate women or condone rape, and he believes it's a waste of lawmakers' time to dig into his past comments. But in a recent piece he wrote for his local newspaper, Fisher defended and doubled down on some of his statements. In one past comment, he said videotaping sexual encounters with women may be the only way for men to defend themselves against fake rape allegations.
The committee's vote elicited shouts of "Shame!" from women in the audience. Ahead of Wednesday's vote, members of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, Action Together New Hampshire, Granite State Progress and Rep. Debra Altschiller held a news conference arguing that Fisher should be expelled. Some dressed as characters from the book and television series, "The Handmaid's Tale," which imagines a dystopian republic in which women have lost their rights and even their identities.